Strategic Planning Toolkit

Strategic Planning Toolkit

Written by Morrie Warshawski with Kelly Barsdate and Jonathan Katz 2000


Planning is integral to the very existence of state arts agencies. Regardless of size or situation, every state arts agency must tackle the same core challenges:

  • developing programs and services consistent with the needs of the field
  • finding effective ways to increase public participation in the arts and public engagement with the work of the arts agency
  • addressing key policy decisions about which funding areas will receive priority and how to distribute those funds effectively
  • reporting—systematically and meaningfully—to state legislators about the actions and accomplishments of the agency
  • developing new resources, and using them wisely
  • receiving approval for National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) funds

The tool for doing all of the above is the strategic planning process. Myriad programmatic and environmental differences among state arts agencies have resulted in plans of contrasting scopes and styles—each specially adapted to individual agency needs. Consistent among these variations, however, is the need for a framework that can be used to think through mission, goals, action steps and accountability in a way that is responsive to the public and to the cultural needs of the field.

Planning has been central to the federal-state arts partnership ever since the NEA’s first enabling legislation provided for grants to state arts agencies with qualified plans. Today, triennial review of state arts plans forms the basis for Partnership Agreements between the endowment and each agency. Of course, the quality of our planning and the nature of our partnership have evolved enormously over 34 years. We believe that this toolkit can contribute much to their further evolution.

As state arts agencies expand the scope of their work within rapidly shifting environments, planning becomes an ever more complex and demanding exercise. Although every agency’s approach to planning is necessarily unique, it helps to be able to draw on the knowledge and experience of others, and many agencies have asked for information on best practices. Existing resources focusing on the nonprofit arts sector or broader state government sector, while helpful, do not always adequately address the specific challenges that state arts agencies face. We hope that this toolkit will provide a good start in meeting the need for a common body of information that will be of benefit to all.

This Strategic Planning Toolkit, fruit of a partnership between NASAA and the NEA, is a practical, hands-on guide that can help state arts agencies and other cultural organizations get the most from the planning process. We focus on best practices by outlining some hallmarks of excellence in planning, and then offer practical advice on how to achieve that excellence.

Rather than being a prescriptive document, this toolkit is a cache of good ideas and tactics that can be used and modified by arts agencies. It also offers a good orientation to the fundamentals of planning for staff, volunteers or appointed leaders who may be new to planning in the state arts agency realm. And it showcases how five states—Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Mississippi and New Jersey—have all been creative and resourceful in developing arts plans that are well suited to their own circumstances.

This toolkit is part of a long-term process that aims to empower state arts agencies to get the most from planning. In the summer of 1999, NASAA convened a Strategic Planning Forum, which brought together planning experts and state arts agency leaders to discuss the characteristics of good planning and to exchange current ideas about helpful planning techniques. That dialogue—together with observations made by NEA Partnership Agreement panels, NASAA, and the considerable professional expertise brought by lead author Morrie Warshawski—all inform the content and structure of this toolkit. In the future, NASAA will develop complementary on-line planning resources, as well as technical assistance and leadership development services, to help state arts agencies translate good ideas into action. These resources, as well as any future updates to this document, will be available via the NASAA website.

As always, we express our appreciation to the many state arts agency staff members and planning experts who took the time to share their perspectives with us. Be certain to review the acknowledgments, for it was our privilege to work with the highest caliber advisors at every stage in this process, and our toolkit reflects the collective wisdom of some of the most remarkable leaders in our field.

Jonathan Katz
Chief Executive Officer
National Assembly of State Arts Agencies
Ed Dickey
State and Regional Director
National Endowment for the Arts

“The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.”

—Author Unknown

The Power of Good Planning

This toolkit is published at a remarkable time in the state arts agency movement. In the last seven years, state legislative appropriations to the arts increased by more than 80 percent. In fiscal year 2000 alone, 42 out of 56 state and jurisdictional arts agencies reported budget increases. Nineteen of those increases were of more than ten percent. In fact, state arts agency (SAA) budgets are currently growing at a faster annual rate than overall state government budgets—a notable occurrence for any group of government agencies, but especially remarkable for the arts sector.

While this growth is fueled in part by a healthy national economy, it is also true that good planning has helped increase arts budgets at the state level. Many factors have worked together to forge this connection between planning and budget growth:

  • Planning builds consensus. Consensus, in turn, helps to increase resources. The arts sector has learned the value of a unified voice, and increasingly uses the planning process to unite constituents around shared goals.
  • Planning makes lines of accountability explicit. In today’s results-oriented environment, a premium is placed on effectiveness and efficiency. State arts agencies have demonstrated that they can compete favorably for state dollars by articulating clear goals and reporting agency progress and accomplishments.
  • Planning connects the arts to good government. The vision, goals and objectives of a plan can show how the arts help advance the public policy aims of state government (healthy communities, an educated populace, civic engagement, quality of life, etc.). Good plans make these connections and use them to help guide the development of arts programs.
  • Planning is democratic. Planning that gathers—and responds to—input from constituents helps to ensure that state dollars are spent in accordance with public needs, desires and benefits. America is the most diverse nation in the world, both culturally and economically. In this context, inclusive planning is a vehicle for turning diversity into strength and for getting things done amidst a plurality of perspectives.
  • Planning widens the arts’ sphere of influence. By reaching out to new people in the arts and non-arts sectors during planning, state arts agencies keep up with trends in their environment and are able to increase the ranks of supporters who participate in the arts and encourage private and public arts funding.

Again and again, states have reported a connection between good planning and the ultimate growth of arts resources. (See the case studies.) And that is no coincidence, for planning at its best positions state arts agencies to anticipate, as well as shape, their futures.

The Future

“The future ain’t what it used to be,” goes the saying in a recent book on trends. There has never been a time in history when this was more true—especially for the field of state arts agencies. As SAAs scan their environments, they may feel a sense of trepidation as they watch the world zip by them in fast-forward. Many things around them are in transition, including:

  • the demographics of audiences, artists and the leadership of arts organizations
  • the political and fiscal landscape of state government, shaped by term limits and still, to a large degree, “reinventing” itself
  • technology—a moving target and management challenge—profoundly reshaping the way we communicate and the way art itself is being created and disseminated

Meanwhile, the demands grow for accountability, for programming that has significant impact over the long and short term and for inclusion of a wide swath of constituents. Adding flavor to this stew is the SAA’s list of perennial challenges—the ones that permeate every environment: the need to secure adequate resources, the competition among arts groups and citizens with differing needs/perceptions, and the unique problems that attend any agency of state government.

It is precisely this environment—fraught with flux and the tensions of ongoing issues—that provides fertile ground for planning. An agency that engages in a healthy planning process hopes to create a convincing written document that paves the way toward a bright future for the arts in its state. At the same time, it hopes that planning will provide many other byproducts, including increased communication among staff, better understanding of constituents and their needs, and greater community awareness of the role and importance of artists and the arts.

Planning Paradigms

There are a variety of types of plans. The particular planning path an agency takes will depend on its vision and the results it hopes to achieve. Typically, a state arts agency will engage in either operational planning, long-range planning or strategic planning. These terms are not mutually exclusive, and in practice they often overlap. But, for the purposes of illustration, let’s look at some significant differences among the three.

Operational plans concentrate on the day-to-day activities of the organization. The emphasis is on the short term, perhaps the next six months to one year, and the focus is centered on the agency itself. This type of plan concentrates on being very directive and providing a great level of detail. Community and constituents are in the background, while agency staff and administration come to the foreground. This type of plan is useful when an agency needs an internal document to marshal a specific set of actions for the near future, and provide a template for staff so that actions, responsibilities, deliverables and lines of authority are very clear.

Long-range plans cast their nets as far into the future as an agency dares to look—ten to twenty years would not be unusual for a long-range plan. These plans assume predictability and continuity in areas such as economic growth, population patterns, lifestyle trends and any number of other variables. Long-range planning is periodic, with goals and objectives revisited at set intervals, rather than an ongoing process. These plans define specific target goals far into the future, and then work their way backwards with action steps to reach each goal. This type of planning was more in vogue during the 1950s and ’60s. It was helpful to corporations that could look into the future and with some sense of confidence predict data that allowed them to create goals, objectives and strategies for the long term. It is also an approach that must be adopted for projects that will take many years and massive resources to accomplish, such as cultural facilities construction, large public land-use projects or highway and freeway development.

Planning Paradigms Diagram
Strategic plans assume that the future is unpredictable and full of unforeseen events, and view planning as an ongoing process. These plans are characterized by an awareness of the agency environment and by a vision of the future that together drive goals and objectives. Strategic plans often look at a number of possible scenarios or possible futures, and typically cover a time span of three to five years. A strategic plan simply helps an agency to think strategically, to position itself to take advantage of opportunities as they arise, and for all the right reasons. It helps the agency understand itself and its environment, then sets a vision for success and suggests strategies that help the agency make powerful choices and move forward.

Author Steven Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, presents an apt analogy that illustrates the difference between long-range planning and strategic planning: the long-range plan provides a road map, while the strategic plan provides a compass. You need to know where you’re going, and what routes to take—which are well defined on a road map. But if there is a flood and the roads wash out, then what you really want is a compass. The strategic plan gives you that compass. It keeps you on course when the world presents you with those inevitable surprises.

Planning Trends

Over the last few years we have witnessed a trend away from long-range planning and more toward strategic planning. There is much less emphasis now on creating plans replete with minutiae and with goals that look far into the future and set specific targets. The current trend in planning is to create a document and a process that help an agency:

  • fully understand itself, its environment and its community
  • reach consensus on core values, a vision for its own future, and the role of the arts in the future of its community
  • establish a set of priorities around goals that make it clear what is to be achieved, but leave room for flexibility in the means for getting things done

Other trends in planning noted by participants in the Strategic Planning Forum conducted by NASAA and the NEA include the following:

  • recognition by state arts agencies that planning is not just an imposed activity necessary to please funders—but rather that planning provides many benefits and is a healthy, ongoing part of normal operations
  • inclusion of many new constituents that may not have been on an agency’s radar screen ten years ago (e.g., individual private donors, arts educators, private foundations, etc.)
  • an increased understanding of how cultural and ethnic diversity should affect choices about communication strategies and tactics for inclusion
  • a realization that the relationships and understandings gained during planning are just as important as the final plan itself
  • an increased level of sophistication in the field that has moved many agencies past the rudimentary aspects of planning
  • a new emphasis on the role of integrating evaluation into all aspects of planning, and the importance of identifying outcomes
  • an awareness that adaptability and flexibility must be built into plans in order to deal with the rapidly increasing rate of change in our environments and in the people who are our partners (actual and potential)

Planning in Different Sectors Table
State arts councils and planning teams are composed of people with diverse backgrounds, and many may have planning experience in other sectors. It is therefore important to note some basic differences between strategic planning by a state arts agency and planning by a business or by other nonprofits. Again, as with long-range and strategic planning, there is much overlap among these planning perspectives. All of them are trying to achieve the same ends—deciding what to accomplish and how. Where they tend to differ is in the nature of the internal and external forces shaping the process—governing boards, constituents, leadership and control of implementation.

Businesses and nonprofits, for instance, are governed by boards of directors, while SAAs may be governed by a politically appointed or elected body. For-profit businesses answer to their boards and are concerned with meeting a fiscal bottom line, as well as serving a “customer” with a product or service. A nonprofit answers to its board of directors and, usually, to a very specific set of constituents (e.g., parents of the victims of drunk driving accidents, dancers and choreographers, people concerned with saving tropical rain forests). For SAAs, the public is the beneficiary and the customer is a much broader set of citizen constituents, who may or may not recognize the value of the agency. This means an extra burden of accountability for SAAs as they do planning, and the mandate to fold inclusiveness into all aspects of planning. A state arts agency’s set of constituents is likely to include not just the citizen consumer of art services, but many other entities including funders and politicians. As we move through our toolkit we will address in more detail the particular strategies that SAAs can employ to make their planning experience successful.

Hallmarks of Excellence

Each state is unique, with its own particular set of circumstances and constituents that directly affect planning. An effective plan by a state in the Northeast might be completely different from one in the Southwest. How can a state look at its plan and measure it against a set of general standards of excellence? The National Endowment for the Arts generated some answers to this question during the meetings of its FY2000 Partnership Agreement panels. The panels’ ideas were then expanded and enhanced at NASAA’s Strategic Planning Forum convened in the summer of 1999.

Forum participants reached a consensus on the characteristics that they have found to be central to the best strategic plans—those that most successfully convey the mission and roles of state arts agencies and help guide difficult program development and resource allocation choices. Excellent plans are:

Appropriate: The plan is firmly situated in and cognizant of the particular confluence of elements in the agency’s environment—political, geographic, economic, artistic and historic. It is a plan that defies formulas or cookie-cutter approaches. The plan demonstrates its awareness of those issues that make its state and its constituents unique, and presents a vision and set of goals that fit its own situation.

Hallmarks of Planning Excellence

  • Appropriate
  • Inclusive
  • Collaborative
  • Visionary
  • Adaptive
  • Measurable
  • Integrated
  • Directive
  • Arts-centered
  • Communicative

Inclusive: An effective plan takes into account the full range of possible constituents for the arts in its state, and has employed a number of creative efforts to include those constituents in helping create the plan. These activities can include surveys, town meetings, focus groups, listening forums, round tables, one-on-one interviews, and Internet mechanisms such as chat groups and e-mail response forms on the state’s website.

Collaborative at all levels: The theme of partnership takes inclusiveness to another level. Partnership shows that you have:

  • taken your entire state into account
  • built on public and private partnerships by actively involving all sectors concerned with cultural and community development
  • included partners in your planning, decision making and implementation
  • made it easy for constituents to see their place in the plan and become involved

Visionary: Does the plan convey a strong overall sense of purpose and direction? Without a clear, inspiring vision, it is very difficult to enlist staff and constituents in making significant sacrifices to create a new future. A plan must excite people in a compelling manner before it can request their support.

Adaptable: The world is changing at an ever-increasing pace. Smart plans recognize the futility of trying to predict the future with absolute certainty. These plans build adaptability into their strategies by delineating significant end results with flexibility in the means employed to achieve them. Some plans even outline several action scenarios for differing circumstances.

Measurable: When goals are couched in vague language they run the risk of producing vague results. When possible, effective plans build measurability into goals, objectives and strategies. They model success in as specific a manner as is appropriate. This has become more important as state governments and partners in the private sector have increased their demands for accountability, measurable outcomes and specific evaluation strategies.

Integrated: Are there themes that hold the plan together? Can the reader sense the agency’s core values being articulated in all sections of the plan? Do all programs match the priority areas articulated by the strategic goals and the executive summary? The most satisfying plans look like a complicated puzzle that has been put together to form a cohesive image without extraneous pieces and without any gaping holes. These plans also become wholly integrated into the external environment of the agency and all its actions—its initiatives, communication strategies, budget proposals and staff actions.

Directive: An effective plan gives direction to its readers by:

  • showing how to achieve significant forward movement
  • defining both what should be done and what should not be done
  • providing a sense of focus for items of high, medium and low priority
  • giving frameworks for both long- and short-term issues

Arts-centered: The plan reveals the centrality of creativity, the arts and artists. The document celebrates the role and importance of creativity in civic life, and the planning process itself integrates artists in its activities.

Communicative: When planning and the plan are all done, what happens to the document and its contents? Do they remain on a shelf gathering dust? Or, does the agency employ vibrant and creative ways to help the plan find the light of day? Agencies that invest the time and energy to craft an excellent plan also invest time and energy to communicate the results to all of their audiences and partners. The best plans lend themselves readily to reformatting for multiple forms of communication.

Elements of a Full Planning Process

In this section of our toolkit we present the full range of elements that make up a planning process, from the planning-to-plan stage all the way through implementation and evaluation. As you read through this chapter, keep in mind that the steps in this process are not necessarily linear, especially once you become engaged in planning. As one aspect begins to inform another, the process may strike you as very circular in nature. Each agency will need to chart its own course, developing a unique approach that connects these basic elements of the planning process in different ways. The case studies that we present later will bear this out. Nevertheless, most state arts agency plans that have proven successful over time have involved some version of all of the basic components described below.

Elements of the Planning Process Flowchart

Planning to Plan

The balance of this toolkit will describe the many different approaches and tools that state arts agencies can employ when planning. All will make demands on an agency’s human and financial resources. So where should an agency begin? How should the myriad options and opportunities be considered?

A planning-to-plan exercise can help provide some initial structure. It identifies the most desirable results that planning may achieve and suggests which planning processes might best achieve those results. Ultimately, planning to plan is about prioritizing—deciding what issues, partnerships and activities your plan will tackle.

Accountable Individuals

Begin by engaging a team of “accountable individuals”—those people who will chart the course of the planning process, play a leadership role in decision making, and be responsible for making the process purposeful and responsive to constituents. Accountable individuals generally include the agency chair, the executive director and any other people directly responsible for the plan’s outcomes and expenditures. As circumstances dictate, a few additional individuals could be invited to participate in the planning to plan exercise. Such additional individuals at this early and intimate planning stage might include:

  • a liaison to the governor
  • a cabinet officer
  • a budget officer or other executive branch official
  • the leadership or staff of the legislature
  • other agency staff
  • representatives of key partner groups and constituencies

Key Questions

Once a team of accountable individuals has been identified, that group’s primary responsibility is to determine what outcomes or results your agency wants planning to achieve. Useful questions include:

  • Why plan now? What circumstances affect what we can or need to accomplish at this time?
  • Have we clearly articulated our agency mission?
  • Are we satisfied with our priorities and goals?
  • Can we communicate what the achievement of our current goals looks like?
  • Do we already know the major problems we need to address?
  • Are there decision makers who control our resources from whom we need more understanding and support?
  • Are there constituencies from whom we need stronger and more effective support?
  • Do we have the necessary partnerships in place to achieve our goals?
  • Are we weakened by competing constituencies with differing agendas?
  • Are we confident that the strategies manifested in our programs and services are as effective as they can be?
  • Are we collecting the kinds of information we need to answer questions like these now and in the future?

You might also use this opportunity to take stock of how your agency has done planning in the past. Try to build on your strengths, and be realistic about previous problems. The self-evaluation checklists may be helpful tools at this stage.

A Matrix of People and Perspectives

Next, decide who the primary constituents and participants are for the overall plan. Involving concerned, affected and potentially allied parties can broaden support for the resulting plan and greatly increase the likelihood that your goals will be achieved. Consider using a matrix to organize individuals and groups who represent important tactical perspectives:

  • Identify those who make decisions and control resources important to your agency.
  • Identify those who contribute in important ways to your community’s cultural resources (human, intellectual or financial).
  • Be specific about those who represent key constituencies or potential allies.

During the planning-to-plan process, your team of accountable individuals can refer to this matrix and determine an appropriate role for each party. People in your matrix may be added to the lead planning team, consulted at one or more designated points in the process, surveyed or convened as one or more focus groups, invited to review draft language at one or more points in the process, or their roles may combine any of the above.

Making your own matrix example and steps
Shaping the Process

Together, your key questions and matrix should reveal the main issues and perspectives that your planning should address. The next step is to consider your process. What types of input do you want, and when? What overall approach should you use to explore your key issues? What is your timeline? And what are the key events or actions that need to be arranged? It is important to understand that different kinds of processes are required to address different kinds of issues. Some issues call for visioning or for brainstorming. Other situations call for negotiation or conflict resolution. And still others may fall into the category of structured response—getting feedback to an existing set of ideas. Consider, too, the potential of using different venues. Some issues are best addressed at a statewide conference, others in a series of interviews or small focus groups, others in statewide public hearings.

It is important to understand that different kinds of processes are required to address different kinds of issues.

Your team of accountable individuals should consider the options and come out of the planning-to-plan process with a comfortable roadmap for how the plan will unfold step by step. (See the case studies for examples of how five different arts councils structured their own processes.) Each state’s plan is unique in shape and sequence. But there are some common denominators typical in most process outlines. Those common denominators, explored in detail in subsequent sections of this toolkit, include:

  • visioning the characteristics of an ideal future
  • reflecting on (or revising) mission and values
  • gathering information
  • setting goals
  • selecting objectives and strategies
  • gathering field response to plan drafts
  • gaining approval and endorsement
  • securing resources
  • implementing and promoting the plan
  • evaluating progress

It is often handy to conceptualize your planning process by drafting an outline or drawing a diagram of key steps. This helps everyone visualize the process, and also helps to test the soundness of the approach by highlighting any gaps or activities that seem disconnected from your ultimate purpose.

Taking Stock

At some point in the planning-to-plan exercise, your team of accountable individuals should step back and review the roadmap you’ve created. Double-check to be sure that you have:

  • articulated concisely the reasons for planning
  • identified the results you want
  • decided how to involve constituents, the public, partners and other concerned parties in the planning process
  • begun to explore the environmental scanning and data review that should get underway
  • mapped the steps of your planning process from start to finish
  • defined the roles of agency staff as well as council members
  • described the process in enough detail to develop realistic timelines and a planning budget
  • considered the follow-up necessary to promote the plan’s recommendations to key decision makers, constituencies and the public

Looking in the Mirror

One of the great joys of planning is the opportunity to dream, to look the future in the face, paint a smile on its mouth, give it a new hairdo and change the color of its eyes. It is this creative aspect of planning that sparks the energies and enthusiasm of many people involved in the process. Your ideal future, however, must be tempered by and grounded in a firm understanding of your context and current realities so that the agency is always in a state of what the author Robert Fritz (The Path of Least Resistance) calls “creative tension”—that dynamic push and pull between achieving what we desire and contending with what we already have. There are a number of methods available for gaining this grounding: self-assessment, data review and environmental scans.


Self-assessment is a form of scanning your internal environment and can be accomplished in many ways. One might be the use of a written form that lists every aspect of your agency’s operations—administrative, fiscal and programmatic. Other self-assessment tools can include one-on-one personal interviews and focus groups. Depending on the time and resources available, an agency could poll its:

  • staff
  • administration
  • current and past grantees or technical assistance recipients
  • potential partners
  • legislators
  • council members
  • business leaders
  • individual artists
  • citizens at large
  • private funders

The purpose of this exercise will be to gain a clearer picture of the agency’s strengths and weaknesses, and to identify those areas that need bolstering. How effective are the agency’s internal and external communications? How well does the agency do at resolving conflicts? How quickly does the agency respond to requests for information? How does the agency rate itself with respect to its relations with grantees? What are the agency’s accomplishments and weaknesses in each program area? The results gained here are mainly qualitative—impressions and anecdotes that can signal agency strengths and weaknesses.

Data Review

Data review is an excellent way to bring quantifiable measures into your self-assessment phase. Your agency is already swimming in a sea of data, though some of it may be difficult to access, hard to understand or rarely used. The purpose of data review is to look for, grab and analyze data that provide you with a clearer picture of your past and current operations, and to see if the data show any significant trends, good or bad. The most informative way to understand your data is to observe changes, or their absence, over time. This approach involves collecting information from a series of consecutive years. Try to observe data over three to five years (or the duration of your most recently completed strategic plan). Another approach is to take sequential “snapshots” of information that represent the agency before, during and after pivotal events (such as budget changes or programmatic restructuring) in its history. Regardless of the years you choose, your objective should be to let you step back and spot any trends: increases, decreases or flat effects (especially if an increase or decrease was expected). What specific kinds of data might you explore? Here is a short list of items that could produce interesting results:

  • gross size of agency’s budget and state’s legislative appropriation to that budget, compared to growth of state’s general fund
  • ranking of state against other states in per-capita expenditures
  • percent of budget spent on: administration, overhead, programs, subsidy to individual artists, staff development, communication, publications, fundraising, new technology, etc.
  • changes in all sources of income, earned and unearned (e.g., fees for services, NEA funds, private support from foundations and individuals)
  • number of people served directly by the agency and indirectly by its grantees grouped by artistic discipline, ethnicity, geographic location, age of participants (or other pertinent factors)
  • grant dollars awarded to organizations grouped by size, age, artistic discipline, geographic location, ethnicity and type of programming (e.g., performances, operating support, arts in education, workshops, etc.)
  • staff size
  • percent of staff time spent on each program area, as well as on major administrative functions and any special initiatives

Data Review Tips

  • Look for trends.
  • Test what you see against your expectations.
  • Make meaningful comparisons.
  • Maximize the utility of existing data.
  • Take advantage of data gathered by others.
  • Let technology help you see patterns.
  • Apply critical thinking to the results you see.

Much of this data is ordinarily available to agencies through mechanisms such as the National Standard data collected about grants, past budget presentations, performance measurement summaries or annual reports. Although some planning situations require the initiation of special research or survey projects, agencies can minimize their time and expense by making the most of existing agency data and then selectively expanding their knowledge as needed to answer specific questions.

Environmental Scan

While the above data elements focus on an agency from an internal perspective, external information collected about, and frequently by, other agencies can be helpful, as well. Examples of important external variables to track over time might include the following:

  • Demographic information about how your population has changed. Information on age, income, race/ethnicity and in- or out-migration trends are usually the most important.
  • Research on the business activity, economic impact or cultural capital of the arts sector in your state.
  • Summary information on the geographic characteristics of your state that might affect the arts or the public’s access to them.
  • Vital statistics on underserved groups such as citizens of rural regions, inner cities or specific cultural groups that will need to be included in the planning process.
  • Information on the budget growth/decline and staff size of other agencies in state government that are comparable to yours (such as state agencies administering historic preservation, humanities, natural resources, libraries, tourism, economic development, etc.).
  • Data describing the arts funding ecology of your state—who the major corporate, philanthropic and private donors are funding, and to what extent. Include data on the direct National Endowment for the Arts grants in your state. And information on the earned revenues of your state’s arts organizations are also an important part of this mix, the goal being to gain an overall sense of what role your state arts agency dollars play in the larger arts funding environment.
  • Information on the budgets and programs of other state arts agencies, particularly those that share similar programmatic, demographic or funding characteristics.
  • Information on arts audiences and participation nationally or in your state. Major arts organizations often do audience surveys as part of their marketing campaigns, and public broadcasting and tourism agencies may have relevant data, as well. Consult the latest National Endowment for the Arts longitudinal survey data tracking public arts attendance, media consumption and personal participation trends.
  • Any public opinion data that may shed light on the value of the arts or on public attitudes toward government arts support.

Consideration of the external environment and its changes is one of the distinguishing features of a strategic (as opposed to an operational) plan. See the section about environmental factors for tips on how to spot key trends that may affect your agency’s future.

Using the Information

Gathering data will be the first part of your task. The second part of data review is finding ways to make sense of these figures, to find the various stories that the figures want to tell you, and to look for any surprises. You can begin by taking raw figures and translating them to plus/minus percentage change from year to year for each category. If you have been entering data into a spreadsheet, then you have the option of making pie charts and graphs to get a quick visual scan of the information. Today’s software puts mapping and other data display tools affordably within reach of most agencies (and the corporate and academic institutions with whom states frequently partner). These visual tactics may help you give your results a critical review, and may help reveal new perspectives on your agency’s operations. Did you discover, for instance, that one area of your operation is taking up a disproportionate amount of your agency’s resources given its importance relative to other programs? Are you finding artistic disciplines or geographic areas that have been chronically underfunded? Have your sources of income—by type or size—changed? Where do you see trends that raise red flags? Where do you find islands of strength and serenity?

As you explore your data review options, don’t forget to consider NASAA as a source of information, advice and technical services. NASAA maintains extensive national databases of arts information, can point you to additional data sources, and can help you analyze and present your findings in a way that will help to inform the rest of your planning process. NASAA also conveys the national perspective, and can facilitate state-to-state comparisons, helping you understand how your state compares to other agencies in your peer group.

Mission, Vision and Values

Before embarking on your planning journey, make sure that there is basic agreement on issues that are central to your very existence and that serve to define your agency (and your state) as unique from any other. Those issues—mission, vision and values—form the bedrock that supports every organization and gives it balance.

Before embarking on your planning journey, make sure that there is basic agreement on issues that are central to your very existence and that serve to define your agency (and your state) as unique from any other.

The best venue for discussing these items is a visioning session, preferably one that is away from your office and its distractions, and one that is led by a trained facilitator. A good way to begin is by identifying your agency’s core values or guiding principles—those values that are inviolable and that permeate all the activities, both large and small, of your agency, from how you answer the phone, to the language you use for justifying your existence before the legislature. As Peter Senge notes in The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, “A set of governing values might include: how we want to behave with each other; how we expect to regard our customers, community and vendors; and the lines which we will, and will not cross. Values are best expressed in terms of behavior: If we act as we should, what would an observer see us doing? How would we be thinking?”

A value statement will often begin with, “We believe in/that….” Values and principles that have appeared in agency plans include an emphasis on:

  • the importance of partnerships at state and local levels
  • accountability to the public
  • commitment to flexibility in order to take advantage of opportunities
  • acting locally
  • the primacy of artistic quality and cultural diversity
  • working collaboratively or promoting collaboration among others
  • integrity
  • innovation
  • artistic quality
  • freedom of expression

Sample Mission Statements

  • North Carolina: “To enrich the cultural life of the state, its people and communities by nurturing and supporting excellence in the arts and by providing opportunities for every North Carolinian to experience the arts.”
  • South Carolina: “With a commitment to excellence across the spectrum of our state’s cultures and forms of expression, the South Carolina Arts Commission pursues its public charge to develop a thriving arts environment, which is essential to quality of life, education and economic vitality for all South Carolinians.”
  • Maine: “The Maine Arts Commission shall encourage and stimulate public interest and participation in the cultural heritage and programs of our state; shall expand the state’s cultural resources; and shall encourage and assist freedom of artistic expression for the well-being of the arts, to meet the legitimate needs and aspirations of persons in all parts of the state.”

Example: Vision Statement

Excerpts from the Delaware Division of the Arts Strategic Plan 1997-2002

Our vision of the future:

  • Citizens of Delaware recognize and appreciate that the arts are an integral part of their lives.
  • A broad diversity of artistic expression and cultural traditions is valued.
  • Delaware’s cultural industry is recognized as a significant contributor to the state’s economy.
  • A variety of opportunities for lifelong learning in the arts exists.
  • Artistic quality is valued.
  • There is ample support for Delaware’s cultural activities.
  • Vibrant arts communities and arts centers flourish.
  • There are opportunities for all citizens to participate in the arts.
  • The arts further the goals of the state as articulated by its elected leadership in such areas as technology, education and the economy.
  • A support base exists for the arts at the local level, building capacity and increasing local advocacy.

Your discussion of core values may be the most heated and the most important one your agency undertakes during planning. This discussion will dovetail with your agency’s reexamination of and commitment to its mission. The mission is your raison d’etre—it declares to the world your particular sense of purpose—why you are in existence and what it is you hope to accomplish. There are many ways to create a mission, and much has been written by Stephen Covey et al. in the last few years on the importance of mission. The main principles to keep in mind with your mission, however, are very simple:

  • Try to keep your mission short and succinct so that people can remember and comprehend it.
  • Let the statement define why you exist and provide direction for doing the right things without prescribing means.
  • Make sure that key stakeholders understand the mission in the same way.
  • Confirm that there is strong commitment to the intent of the mission.

Here is what management guru Peter Drucker has to say about mission: “The mission should ‘fit on a T-shirt,’ yet a mission statement is not a slogan. It is a precise statement of purpose. Words should be chosen for their meaning rather than beauty, for clarity over cleverness. The best mission statements are plain speech with no technical jargon and no adornments. Like the mission statement of the International Red Cross—’To serve the most vulnerable’—they come right out and say something. In their brevity and simplicity is power.”

The last ingredient in your bedrock is a shared vision—your image of the desired future for your agency and your state. Engaging in a vision exercise allows an agency to build a dream together. It also points out quickly where there are differences—sometimes jarring—in the assumptions held about an agency’s direction. This is a time to iron out those differences and come to consensus on a vision of the future that will form the basis for the planning to follow. Because people will be looking to your vision for inspiration, and because it is the launching pad for creation of goals and strategies, it is important that you create a vision that is richly detailed, and that captures people’s imaginations and taps into their deeply held hopes for the future of the arts in your state. Your vision might draw a picture of:

  • the role artists will play in the cultural and economic life of the state
  • how the arts and education will work together
  • the positive results of forging new partnerships between arts organizations and businesses
  • how the lives of citizens throughout the state will be enhanced through access to the arts
  • the changing landscape of your cities through the renovation or building of new cultural facilities and the commissioning of public art


Involving Stakeholders

If you have not already involved key stakeholders during your self-assessment or data review, then it is time to consider who needs to be involved and in what ways you can engage people’s assistance and advice. One key principle to effective strategic planning is, at a minimum, the involvement of key stakeholders during planning phases that affect them directly, and at a maximum, during appropriate moments throughout the entire process of planning. Your list of stakeholders might be broad or narrow, and could encompass past, present and potential groupings of people and organizations. At the very least, you will be concerned about the following:

  • individual artists
  • arts and culture organizations
  • your commissioners or council members
  • a representative cross-section of citizens already involved in attending or participating in the arts
  • your legislature
  • appropriate government agencies (e.g., the state planning commission)
  • the statewide arts advocacy organization
  • state arts education alliances
  • other statewide arts service groups
  • arts funders (local and national, public and private )
  • educational institutions involved in the arts and arts administration
  • local arts agencies and their statewide assemblies
  • groups and individuals representing the geographic, economic and cultural diversity of your state

In addition, you may want to include leaders of key businesses and industry, experts in new technology or other issues of concern, recognized community leaders, potential new partners from other government and nonprofit sectors (such as tourism, health, education, etc.). Consider extra efforts to include nonparticipants—those people not usually involved in the arts or with the state arts council. You might try reaching out by using non-arts civic forums (volunteer networks, chambers of commerce, Rotary Clubs and fraternal organizations, for instance).

States have been very imaginative in their methods of securing inclusion. Those methods run the gamut from the creation of steering committees and specialized task forces to participation in public hearings, focus groups, individual interviews, statewide meetings and planning sessions. Even when direct, in-person participation is difficult or impractical, states have devised other creative ways to be sure to get a broad array of opinions from stakeholders, including use of the Internet (through e-mail, listservs, questionnaires on the agency’s website and chat groups), mail surveys and placement of documents in public libraries.

Participants in the Strategic Planning Forum offered a number of additional suggestions for improving inclusion and increasing attendance:

  • Organize meetings around topics, activities and agendas that already draw people together. Some states have sponsored grants workshops or meetings of various arts disciplines (museums, presenters, traditional artists, rug weavers, poets, etc.) and then opened the meeting to a public hearing on state arts agency issues.
  • Follow up on your meetings. Keep going back to your constituents to let them know what you have done with their input and where you are in the planning process.
  • Get lots of public input during your draft process. Present interim plans so that people will feel they can have an effect on your decisions before they are finalized.
  • Take advantage of well-established calendars. Find out when interest groups throughout your state are holding their own meetings and ask to be included in their agendas.
  • Make your meetings festive. Involve the arts in your meetings by hosting a brief performance or presentation, or by engaging participants in an arts-related activity. And consider providing refreshments at meetings when possible. People are much more likely to attend a “party” than a meeting.

Goals, Objectives and Strategies

Some Terminology

States have different ways of defining goals, objectives and strategies. The New York State Council on the Arts, in its Renewing NYSCA: A Five-Year View, 1999-2003, gives the following succinct definitions that you might find useful in your own planning:

  • Goal: Goals are desired future results or conditions that help to realize the vision of the agency or resolve issues. Goals describe a vision accomplished or problem solved. Goals tend to be general, long term, and result oriented. Goals answer, What difference are we trying to make or why?
  • Objective: Objectives state specific, achievable results consistent with the goal. Objectives are targeted, specific outcomes. Objectives answer, What is achieved?
  • Strategy: Strategies are general approaches or methods utilized to fulfill objectives. Strategies answer, How are objectives achieved?

Example: Goals, Objectives and Strategies in South Dakota

  • Goal: To remove barriers to accessibility.
  • Objective A: Assist South Dakota arts institutions to become more aware of the legal requirements and ways to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). (This is one of five objectives listed.)
  • Strategies for Objective A: Feature explanatory and “how-to” articles in publications. Present related workshops at conferences. Maintain ADA references. Assess grantee ADA compliance as part of updating South Dakota Arts Council plan.

Many of the major decisions about your plan may already have been made earlier in the process as you described your mission and values. Now the major work is to codify the results of prior meetings and discussions in the form of goals, objectives and strategies—the statements that specify what you will accomplish and how. At the same time, you will need to decide on priorities, targeting those goals and strategies that are more important than others. Which will take precedence in the short term because they need immediate attention? Which will become priorities because they provide the most leverage for significant change in the long term?How do you get from the broad themes you’ve identified early in the process to the identification of major goals and the creation of objectives and strategies? At this point in your planning you have a number of options, depending on the structure you’ve set up for planning, your layers of accountability, and the degree to which you want to be inclusive but still get things done. For some states this means taking separate themes and assigning them to specific committees or task forces that report back with their recommendations. Others may opt for coming to consensus in small groups or in large retreat settings. Many states create early drafts of their plans that include decisions made to date and then invite a response from a broad cross-section of constituents. It is not unusual for a plan to go through two or three of these drafts, garnering more responses and support along the way, until the agency’s administration, council and staff feel they have reached a comfortable point of conclusion.

Accountability and Measurement

Organizations in all sectors strive to be accountable—to sponsors and constituents—for the results of their activities. Accountability takes on special emphasis in the government sector, where the expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars bears with it a special responsibility to document how funds were managed effectively. In recent years, most state and local governments have developed performance measurement policies to track how time and money are spent. These systems ordinarily incorporate indicators for inputs, outputs, efficiency, satisfaction and outcomes.

The Feedback Loop

Whether adopted as a formal measurement system or used internally for self-evaluation purposes, performance indicators are most powerful when incorporated into the actual plan. Crafting a plan with clear evaluation reference points can help you focus on purposeful activities and help you monitor your progress in achieving your goals.

With regard to the strategic planning process itself, the question to keep in mind is: “How will we know if our goals have been reached?” In other words, how can you define success for each goal in a way that is specific, that is easily understood by a variety of people, and that might even be quantifiable? Your articulation of an answer to this question will make evaluation of progress much easier as you enter the life of implementing your plan. Generally, the trend now is to be specific about measurable outcomes for the short term, and to remain more general in the long term. For instance, in Idaho’s long-range plan, there are a number of “Targeted Performance Standards” attached to the end of each goal description. These include specific items such as:

  • Increase audiences for supported events by a minimum of two percent annually.
  • Support at least two first-time grantees annually.
  • Serve organizations and individuals in all of Idaho’s 44 counties.

The Illinois Arts Council (IAC), too, articulates target outcomes in its plan. For example, IAC’s first goal—”To lead Illinois in developing awareness and support of accessible, quality art programs”—is accompanied by six objectives, specific activities and the following types of targets for evaluating achievement:

  • Establish three key partnerships and test their effectiveness in accomplishing IAC goals.
  • Increase grants to underserved geographic areas by 50 percent.
  • Increase to 75 percent the number of council members who communicate with elected officials on behalf of the council, assist staff in community outreach and participate in the governor’s awards.

Types of Performance Indicators

  • Outputs: How many grants or services were provided? Where, and to whom? These measures are used to mark the scope of agency activities and to describe SAA commitment to key populations, issues or service areas.
  • Efficiency: What are the procedural costs of your services? These measures describe the cost-effectiveness of operations, and typically include ratios of program activities to staff hours, administrative dollars, etc.
  • Satisfaction: Did services meet needs and expectations? Such data are typically gathered through program evaluations or opinion surveys of participants or beneficiaries.
  • Outcomes: What were the changes in behavior or situation brought about by your program? The most valuable, though elusive, measures available, outcomes go beyond the incidence of activities to assess impact over time. Some examples include increased artistic quality, enhanced organizational stability or changes in civic participation.
  • Benchmarks: How did your agency’s performance compare to that of previous years or other agencies? Benchmarks provide a frame of reference for understanding measurement data in context.

For examples of performance measurement systems for the arts and a full description of how to develop meaningful tracking systems, consult NASAA’s manual, A State Arts Agency Performance Measurement Toolkit.

Note that both Illinois and Idaho are explicit in outlining what they hope to accomplish and connect performance indicators with specific goals. This sets the stage for a powerful feedback loop that allows agency leaders to evaluate progress and explain the environmental factors that have helped to boost—or hinder—performance during any given time span.

Accountable Individuals

Your planning-to-plan phase will already have identified the individuals, committees and task forces that will be accountable for various phases of planning—conducting planning meetings and retreats, doing research and compiling data, arranging for public meetings and forums, assigning the writing of reports and of the final document(s). In all likelihood, sitting at the apex of this accountability pyramid will be an individual at the top or close to the top of your hierarchy, such as the state arts agency executive director or the assistant/deputy director.

The plan itself will, ultimately, be rife with internal points of accountability as you begin to target which specific strategies will be accomplished by which people (usually identified by title instead of by name to allow for staff turnover and transitions over time). An important principle of effective strategic planning is that persons accountable for actions be included in the planning of those actions. If this has not already taken place during planning, you still have an opportunity now to consult with appropriate individuals and solicit their opinions about the actions they will be held responsible to accomplish. You might list this information directly in the main text of your primary strategic plan next to each strategy or incorporate this information in the text of a more detailed agency plan. Or create a detailed appendix summary chart showing all responsible individuals (by title) along the top row, with strategies down the page along the left-hand column and check marks showing who is responsible for what throughout the long-range plan.

Some agencies report to NASAA that their performance measurement requirements, driven by legislative and executive office changes, are in a constant state of flux. If this is your reality, you might consider a two-part approach to articulating accountability and evaluation strategies:

  1. If you cannot include specific measurements in the plan itself, try acknowledging evaluation and fact-based decision making in your values or principles. Also try fleshing out activities that indicate you will develop and execute evaluation strategies on an ongoing basis.
  2. On an annual or quarterly basis, release a separate set of performance reports that identifies your measures, explains their meaning or significance, and organizes the resulting information according to your agency’s goal or objective areas. Connect this material back to your plan at every opportunity.

Keeping the Plan Alive

How do you keep your plan from becoming just one more dormant document gathering dust on someone’s shelf? How can you ensure that your plan remains a dynamic tool for change and direction in your agency and your community? The answers to these questions will partially lie in the process you have undertaken to create the plan, where the seeds for its longevity and usefulness were initially planted.

The first way to encourage the long life of a plan is to be inclusive—make sure that the people who must implement it are involved in its creation. Were your key stakeholders an integral part of the planning process? Were artists engaged throughout planning? Did everyone who was assigned a task in the plan help to conceive and articulate those tasks? Is there a very strong consensus among stakeholders about the broad vision and the main areas of focus for the plan? If there is, then you have a high likelihood that what was committed to paper will be committed to action. If not, then all you have is paper.

Assuming your process has been inclusive and participatory, there are a number of other methods you can employ to keep your plan a living document. One very powerful tool is to adopt a process of ongoing evaluation. This forces you to revisit the plan (either in full or in part) and it provides you with opportunities to fine-tune the plan to meet current realities. Most states engage in at least an annual evaluation of their plans. This process typically includes assessing the agency’s progress toward priority goals, as well as revisiting objectives to make sure that they remain relevant. Many states supplement this annual review with biannual or quarterly reviews.

Keeping Your
Plan Alive

  • Inclusion
  • Evaluation
  • Accessibility
  • Clarity
  • Integration

Evaluation and review engender conversations in your organization—a conversation among stakeholders so that they are constantly refining their actions, and a conversation about the plan itself, testing its assumptions and adjusting its strategies to meet changes in the environment. When this symbiosis occurs the entire enterprise helps to build a climate for a “learning organization” to grow. In addition to evaluation during formal reviews, your plan might also employ an ongoing method of feedback such as a response form located on the agency’s website.

Making the plan accessible is another key to keeping it alive. Make sure the plan itself is readily available and convenient to peruse. Write the document in plain language and use formats that are attractive and easy to read and understand. If your plan is going to affect and be employed by many different audiences, then you may want to consider a variety of physical and linguistic formats. It is not uncommon—in addition to a complete edition of the plan with all its appendices—to have shorter versions available as documents, brochures, fliers and press releases for legislators, the public and funders. Do not underestimate the effect of the visual appearance of your plan. Its design, layout, paper and typeface all help communicate the mission of the arts agency and connect it to the creative resources in the state. The versions might reach people through direct mail efforts, or be made available statewide in public settings like libraries or community arts centers.

Let modern technology give you some help. The Web can provide a comfortable home for your plan. There it can become an interactive living document where updates are inexpensive and easy to make, and where your constituents can provide their comments, or even talk to one another. Sections of the plan can be cut, pasted and sent via e-mail, or the document as a whole can be sent as an attached file without ever having to use paper and postage. Some agencies post their more detailed operational plans on their internal agency computer network so that staff can stay in contact with operational goals and strategies.

Evaluation and review engender conversations in your organization . . . when this symbiosis occurs the entire enterprise helps to build a climate for a “learning organization” to grow.

Along with differences in content, the language of each version may vary in order to communicate more clearly to its intended audience. The one element all will have in common is that the message of the plan is presented in clear, simple and conciselanguage. “Keep it simple, stupid!” is a good axiom to follow when writing a plan. Your reader should be able to understand and remember easily the key concepts and directions of your plan. This will encourage the process of keeping everyone focused on pushing your major objectives forward, and mitigate against the danger of having your plan stalled while people become enmeshed in a morass of detail, or in trying to ferret out your core principles and goals. Quotes and testimonials from constituents and partners are another powerful way to reinforce the plan’s message, add a human touch to the document and give readers a sense of the real people being affected by the plan. States with diverse populations may want to provide the entire plan or key portions of it translated into various languages, or in large type, audio or Braille versions.

States that are serious about using their plans to invigorate their agencies, and who want to enliven the process of implementation, build interlocking mechanisms that integrate their plans into the fabric of the agency. For these agencies there is no question about keeping the plan alive because the plan is at the center of all their activities. For example, staff positions and responsibilities can be organized according to objectives. The plan can also make itself visible as a framework for organizing key agency communications—external and internal. The goals and principles of the plan shape and inform annual reports, Web site content, budget presentations and grant guidelines. In these ways, the plan stays alive through a constant conversation, and has the added benefit of making all communication efforts more purposeful. When grants are awarded to individuals and organizations, the agency can point out that it is also accomplishing specific goals of a larger, comprehensive agenda.

In some states the plan and its major goals are the shaping force for the agenda of all staff and council meetings and retreats. In a few instances, states have used the plan as a template to mold the entire agency to be in accord with the plan. For instance, the Mississippi Arts Commission eliminated a number of its former programs, reshaping and restructuring its operations to mirror the four major programs that were identified as the primary thrusts during their planning process (see the case study of Mississippi’s planning process). In instances like this, as long as the agency is alive, the plan will remain alive.

Self Evaluation Checklists

No tool is appropriate for every conceivable job. Even a trusty Swiss Army knife occasionally encounters a task beyond its capabilities. However, the right tool used at the right time can often produce powerful results. Our self-evaluation checklists are designed to help state arts agencies at any point in their planning process to consider a number of elements that we have discovered in most successful strategic plans.

The lists include many items, some of which may not be germane to your particular planning situation. We have provided you with a large latitude of possibilities and encourage you to alter the lists in ways that make them more useful to your agency. A ratings grid allows you to look at each item and rank it as either “strong,” “adequate,” “weak” or “n/a” (“not applicable”). Though these ratings may provide helpful reference points, don’t stop there. Use them to spark discussion about ways in which your agency can make the most of its planning.

An opportune moment to introduce these tools is before you start planning. The kit provides a way to “begin with the end in mind”—to bring a group of people together to discuss all the elements of a planning process before you set sail, and to see if you can reach consensus on key issues from the outset. It is also a convenient way to assess your plan and planning process after it is complete, so that you can make corrections where necessary and be all the more prepared for your next plan.

The Planning Process

Checkboxes headers: Strong, Adequate, Weak, N/A
The Plan to Plan
Planning team of accountable individuals is established Four check boxes
Process for creation of the plan is in place and created by consensus Four check boxes
Clear roles are articulated for staff, council and constituents Four check boxes
Project leadership is secured and adequate for the task Four check boxes
Necessary resources are available, including:
  • human
Four check boxes
  • technical
Four check boxes
  • financial
Four check boxes
Timeline is in place and is flexible Four check boxes
Outside expertise is identified and selected Four check boxes
Key stakeholders are identified Four check boxes
Key planning questions are identified Four check boxes
Self Assessment
Fiscal and program data are thoroughly reviewed Four check boxes
External data is secured for environmental scan Four check boxes
Process is established for assessing quality and impact of services Four check boxes
Process is established for assessing quality of internal operations Four check boxes
Strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats (SWOT) analysis is conducted Four check boxes
Data review findings are explained in a cogent narrative Four check boxes
Mission, Vision, Values
The mission statement is:
  • concise
Four check boxes
  • well understood by agency staff
Four check boxes
  • easy to communicate
Four check boxes
  • descriptive of desired ends, not means
Four check boxes
  • understood by constituents
Four check boxes
Core values are identified Four check boxes
Agency has consensus on core values from key stakeholders Four check boxes
Agency gains consensus on a vision for:
  • its own future
Four check boxes
  • its role in affecting the future of the arts in the community
Four check boxes
Vision statement is the basis for creating goals and action plans Four check boxes
All key stakeholders are identified Four check boxes
Planning process provides multiple opportunities for public input Four check boxes
Process for summarizing the information learned from stakeholders is in place Four check boxes
Process is established for building consensus around difficult or divisive issues Four check boxes
Artists are involved in all aspects of the planning process Four check boxes
Culturally and economically diverse groups are involved Four check boxes
Underserved constituents and other unheard voices are engaged Four check boxes
A mix of creative, pragmatic and visionary voices is heard Four check boxes
Conflict resolution skills are used as needed Four check boxes
Process is determined for gathering field response to drafts of the plan Four check boxes
Process is determined for building field enthusiasm for the completed plan Four check boxes
Evaluation mechanisms for all aspects of planning are in place Four check boxes
Meetings are led by qualified facilitators Four check boxes
Adequate records and reporting systems are used for all meetings Four check boxes

The Written Plan

Checkboxes headers: Strong, Adequate, Weak, N/A
Layout and typeface make key points easy to locate and read Four check boxes
Language is concise and appropriate for the audience Four check boxes
Graphics are clear, easy to understand, and can be read after photocopying Four check boxes
Visuals and photos of arts activities appear in the plan Four check boxes
Paper stock used does not obscure the contents Four check boxes
Design is consistent with the agency’s:
  • image
Four check boxes
  • role as an agent of the arts
Four check boxes
  • other printed materials
Four check boxes
There is a table of contents or other organizing tool Four check boxes
One or more appropriate versions are available to meet differing needs of:
  • taxpayers/the public
Four check boxes
  • funders (NEA, foundations, etc.)
Four check boxes
  • legislators
Four check boxes
  • artists, arts agencies and other nonprofits
Four check boxes
  • the business community
Four check boxes
Available in large type, Braille, audio, etc. Four check boxes
Translated into languages spoken by key constituencies Four check boxes
Available via the Web Four check boxes
The plan provides proper acknowledgment for and/or lists of:
  • fiscal sponsors
Four check boxes
  • primary partners
Four check boxes
  • primary writer(s)
Four check boxes
  • key participants (in focus groups, community meetings, etc.)
Four check boxes
  • staff
Four check boxes
  • council members
Four check boxes
Executive Summary
Is concise and identifies main priorities Four check boxes
Includes directions on how different constituents can make use of the plan Four check boxes

Key Components of the Plan

Checkboxes headers: Strong, Adequate, Weak, N/A
Explains the process used to create the plan Four check boxes
Describes the people involved in creating the plan and why/how chosen Four check boxes
Gives background on reasons for the agency’s decision to engage in planning Four check boxes
Lists assumptions (if any) that inform the plan Four check boxes
Identifies the major strategic questions facing the agency Four check boxes
Includes a brief history of the agency Four check boxes
Describes and explains key environmental factors Four check boxes
Summarizes relevant data (on programs, services, community) Four check boxes
Lists strengths the agency has identified:
  • in itself
Four check boxes
  • in its community
Four check boxes
Lists weaknesses the agency has identified and targeted to address:
  • in itself
Four check boxes
  • in its community
Four check boxes
Framing Concepts
Mission appears in the plan with the date it was accepted Four check boxes
Values and principles guiding the agency’s actions are articulated Four check boxes
A vision for the future is articulated and is:
  • specific and easy to understand
Four check boxes
  • inspiring and likely to spark imagination and commitment
Four check boxes
  • appropriate for the community and the agency
Four check boxes
  • achievable and grounded in fact
Four check boxes
Lists goals for:
  • all external programs
Four check boxes
  • internal administrative operations
Four check boxes
  • external relations
Four check boxes
  • fiscal matters
Four check boxes
  • short- and long-term priorities
Four check boxes
Goals, when possible, are measurable Four check boxes
Goals demonstrate a commitment to improvement Four check boxes
Priority rankings are assigned to each goal Four check boxes
Identifies both short- and long-term activities Four check boxes
For each objective and strategy:
  • identifies, by title, who will be responsible for implementing actions
Four check boxes
  • makes explicit the roles of:
  • partners
Four check boxes
  • constituents/grantees
Four check boxes
  • the public
Four check boxes
  • provides a reasonable timeline for completion of tasks
Four check boxes
  • identifies resources (human, material and fiscal) needed to fulfill each action
Four check boxes
Demonstrates a commitment to adaptability Four check boxes
Creates alternative scenarios for areas of high risk/low predictability Four check boxes
A process and a timeline are articulated for regular evaluation of progress Four check boxes
There is a plan and budget in place for dissemination of final document Four check boxes
Adequate process and timeline for revising and/or renewing commitments to goals Four check boxes
The plan invites and provides mechanisms for response Four check boxes
The plan invites and provides a mechanism for involvement Four check boxes


Checkboxes headers: Strong, Adequate, Weak, N/A
The plan is promoted and used after its initial approval Four check boxes
The agency understands and acts in accordance with the plan Four check boxes
Constituents understand and have “bought into” the plan Four check boxes
Staff understands and acts in accordance with the plan Four check boxes
Staff understands and is committed to the mission statement Four check boxes
All new initiatives or programs developed connect to one of the plan’s strategic goals Four check boxes
The plan has been a helpful tool in developing/discontinuing agency programs Four check boxes
The plan has been a helpful tool in making resource allocation decisions Four check boxes
The plan has helped the agency develop new partners Four check boxes
The plan has helped the agency develop new resources Four check boxes
The agency has made progress in attaining its stated goals or outcomes Four check boxes
Progress is evaluated on an ongoing basis Four check boxes

Using Consultants Effectively

Since good strategic planning incorporates many different kinds of activities, state arts agencies must be prepared to bring a variety of skills, experience and areas of knowledge to the task. These include identifying procedural models, conducting research, facilitating meetings, resolving conflicts and preparing effective written documents. While these capabilities are often present among agency staff and leaders, securing them from outside consulting professionals can be advantageous, so most agencies draw on the work of outside professionals at some point in their planning. Three variables are important in determining whether—and how best—to work with consultants. These variables are expertise, staff time and budget.


Planning consultants can offer advice on the overall design of the planning process. This type of consultation may be especially helpful at the pre-planning stage (see pages 13-17), during which you outline the major purposes and management approach of your plan. The planning process best suited to determine a new mission and vision might be very different from one that is suited to address a specific set of already-known issues. A process that best builds a specific set of partnerships or responds to some crucial change in the environment might be different still. The critical question here is how confident the state arts agency leaders are that they can do a good job of shaping the planning process without additional perspective and assistance. An experienced consultant can familiarize you with different models and can help your team of accountable individuals determine which planning process may best help you achieve your desired outcomes.

Another set of planning skills relates to conducting group processes. State arts agencies can enhance the effectiveness of statewide meetings, sessions with council members, staff retreats, interviews, focus groups and other constituent input forums by employing professional facilitation techniques. These competencies include the ability to:

  • draw from individuals their best vision and ideas
  • help participants communicate well with each other
  • help groups set collective priorities
  • lead groups to an appropriate level of agreement on issues
  • accurately synthesize the proceedings (both during and after the meeting)
  • deal effectively and appropriately with conflicts, if they erupt
  • manage the meeting’s timetable and agenda well
  • keep discussions focused, productive and constructive

Tips for Using Consultants

  • Identify the types of skills/expertise that will augment your own.
  • Work within budgetary constraints: choose the best advice you can afford.
  • Secure references and examples.
  • Be explicit about roles, responsibilities, deliverables and timelines.
  • Choose a staff “point person” for managing the relationship.

State arts agency staff and leaders routinely employ such skills through the course of their work with partners and constituents. But having a consultant or guest facilitator run meetings from an unbiased perspective can often help to bring fresh ideas and a new degree of honesty to the table, while freeing SAA staff and leaders to listen more attentively and participate more fully in the proceedings.

Gathering, analyzing and communicating research call for yet another set of skills. Modern research methods offer state arts agencies a wide array of information-gathering and analysis techniques to help them understand their environment and secure a diversity of public perspectives. Experienced consultants can identify the most reliable and expedient techniques to secure the type of knowledge you need. It is important that the research advice you receive be of high quality. Ineffective framing and wording of questions, for instance, on surveys and in polls, focus groups and interviews can produce useless or—worse—misleading findings. And without expertise in public and press relations and the print, visual and verbal communication of data, even accurate and revealing findings may have little or no impact.

Staff Time

The state arts agency should carefully sort out the planning tasks in order to determine if, when and how its internal expertise needs to be supplemented. Most or all of the expertise required to design, oversee and carry out a good strategic planning process may be available within an agency. But the question remains whether assuming these planning tasks internally is the best use of the agency’s current human resources. Depending on the scope of planning intended, a strategic process can demand from 10 to 40 percent of agency staff time in a year. In “peak years” this percentage could stretch much higher for key staff people (such as the planning officer, executive director or deputy director). Even if staff and council members do have the expertise and desire to execute the entire plan, will pursuing that work sacrifice programs, services or other functions that advance the agency or fulfill its public expectation? If so, securing consultants or contract workers might be advisable for some tasks.


In addition to the external expertise required and desired, the budget available for the function of planning may also affect the use and selection of consultants. The costs of contract help can vary widely, depending on the scope of work you desire and other important variables, including:

  • Type of term preferred: Does the consultant charge by the hour, day or week?
  • Typical client base: Does the consultant routinely work with large corporations? Nonprofits? Large government agencies? Arts groups?
  • Background: Does the consultant offer a unique skill or subject-specific knowledge that may command a premium cost?
  • Location: Will the consultant need to travel, or will most work be done via phone or e-mail?
  • Affiliation: Is the consultant an independent business? A nonprofit service? An extension of an academic program? A supplemental income stream for an arts management practitioner?
  • Presence of existing models: Will you be charged to develop new approaches, or can previously used models be adapted for you?

States may wish to identify a variety of different consultants, and find out what fee structures they offer. Look for variance in base rates, travel costs, inclusion of direct costs (such as phone, supplies, etc.) and the use of subcontractors. Also ask about what work similar to yours a consultant may have done for other clients. Not only is this an experience factor, it can be a budget factor, since the costs needed to invent a new system (such as a survey, Web site script, database or process model) can be significantly higher than the costs of adapting existing materials to your circumstances. The degree to which a potential consultant is able to propose a budget that satisfies you depends largely on his or her understanding of your process, needs and priorities. Be as specific as possible in crafting requests for proposals (RFPs) and calls for bids, in order to get reality-based rate quotes and secure proposals that are comparable.

Picking a Consultant

Try to secure the best caliber of help that you can realistically afford. Look for a proven track record of professionalism—favorable references and a reputation for follow-through and timely completion. References provided by a consultant are most useful for identifying strengths. References from state arts agency colleagues may be more useful for identifying a consultant’s knowledge of state arts agencies, experience with arts planning or potential blind spots. An agency should request examples of work directly from a prospective consultant. As in any bid system, the low estimate submitted in response to an RFP may not necessarily be the preferable one.

It is advisable to incorporate personal interaction into the selection process. A match in communication style that leads to open mutual inquiry and early acknowledgment of unexpected situations will be felt by participants in the process and ultimately be reflected in the quality of the results. Seek consultants who listen well, customize their approach to the specific situation and demonstrate flexibility. Respected consultants collaborate with clients to develop clear expectations, and make—and honor—commitments to activities, deliverables, timetable and budget.

Managing the Work

“Clarity, clarity, clarity” is the rule for a good working relationship between an agency and a consultant. A formal consultant agreement should articulate the contract fees, activities, deliverables, payment schedule and timetable as precisely as possible. Where the ability of the consultant to accomplish stipulated tasks depends on work by the agency, it is a good idea for the formal agreement to describe the state arts agency’s commitment of activities, products and timetable.

Monitoring systems are important points requiring early agreement. Decide what type and frequency of progress reports will keep the project on track, and be sure to intervene early if you don’t see evidence of progress according to your agreed-upon schedule. Points at which the quality of work will be reviewed should be indicated in advance, as should areas of potential flexibility.

Finally, decide among the individuals managing the planning process exactly who will be the primary person to whom the consultant reports. This person’s authority and reporting responsibilities should be crystal clear and devoid of ambiguity both within the agency and between the agency and the consultant.

Ten Environmental Factors to Consider When Planning

By more accurately understanding its state environment, an arts council can do the following:

  • Identify needs to which the arts agency wants to respond.
  • Identify current situations or future scenarios to which the state arts agency must adapt.
  • Articulate values, principles and strategies consonant with the state’s realities.
  • Anticipate circumstances that might affect the success of the planning process.
  • Anticipate circumstances that might influence how well a plan itself can be implemented.

While each state arts agency environment is unique, the collective experience of states does suggest some common environmental factors that inform state arts agency planning, programs and services. Some of these factors have to do with the impact on the arts of the social, economic, political and technological environments. Others have to do with art itself, arts organizations, and the systems that support participation in the arts.

We’ll explore ten of these key environmental factors below. Consider putting this information to strategic use in the following ways:

  • Use a checklist approach to consider how each of these factors operates in your state.
  • Align your data gathering and data review practices to keep abreast of the factors most important to you.
  • Examine how these factors may advance or hinder the realization of your agency’s goals.
  • Imagine how your agency might need to adapt as these trends change over time.

The State Arts Agency Environment: Ten Factors Influencing Planning

Factor #1: Public Perception of Government’s Role What are the current public attitudes toward government in your state and toward the arts as an appropriate government endeavor? How might those attitudes shape state service priorities and budgets?
Factor #2: Public Benefit Rationales Which rationales are working well in your state—for the arts and for other government service areas? Which existing arguments can be cornerstones for your efforts? Which new arguments would it be useful to cultivate?
Factor #3: The Governor’s Agenda What are your governor’s top concerns, and how can they connect to the work of the arts council? Have you made that case? How would your plan and its implementation be affected were the current administration, or its theme, to continue or be replaced?
Factor #4: Available Budget Resources How are overall state revenues expected to fare in the years ahead? Are there any tax policy changes on the horizon that may affect your state’s bottom line? What key industry trends will affect corporate taxes, citizen employment rates and the like? Has the current administration revealed plans for earmarking anticipated increases?
Factor #5: The Maturity of Statewide Networks What strong statewide networks already exist in your state? How could you gain access to them for planning, program delivery or development purposes? What networks are most needed in your state? What role can you play in fostering them?
Factor #6: Legislative Leadership and Support What are your own opportunities for increasing the involvement of state legislators, both during planning and throughout a plan’s life span? Do term limits suggest the need to work quickly and purposefully with selected groups of legislators?
Factor #7: Technological Advances How can technology be used to advance your work in each goal area? Can you use e-mail networks or the Web creatively to increase public input into your planning process? What do you know about the technological needs and capacities of artists and arts organizations in your state?
Factor #8: Cultural Diversity What groups will need to be included in your planning process? How much do you know about their needs, experiences or expectations? What process models or communications strategies will be most meaningful for engaging particular groups?
Factor #9: The Arts and How People Participate in Them Does where one lives in your state significantly affect one’s ability to create, perform or attend various art forms? How do the organizations and audiences in your state compare to national participation trends?
Factor #10: Arts Literacy How many of your state’s students actually receive adequate arts instruction? State and national studies indicate that numerous students are not receiving systematic instruction in the performing, visual or traditional arts, and that access to arts classes is especially problematic in rural and high-poverty areas. What would it take to close the gap in your state? What partnerships or dialogue do you need to influence key policy decisions (about standards, assessment, curriculum, certification requirements or hiring art teachers) that affect arts education?

Factor #1: Public Perception of Government’s Role

Government resources available for the arts in particular may vary depending on broad shifts in public attitudes toward the role of government in general. For instance, when the Great Society programs of the l960s were established, expectations of what federal government leaders could accomplish were typically higher than during the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s, when federal social programs were cut back, and during what might be called the New Federalism period of the 1990s, when the balance of resources significantly shifted to the state and local levels. At the state level, we can observe some regional differences in what the public currently perceives to be the appropriate size and role of government. Some state governments enjoy high levels of public confidence and accordingly high expectations for a diversity of programs and services. Other states, however, serve populations that believe “less is more” and expect state governments to scale back spending and programs accordingly.

Factor #2: Public Benefit Rationales

It is useful to recall that between 1993 and 2000, state legislative appropriations to the arts increased by more than 80 percent. This upswing coincided with a strong economy, but was also supported by increased sophistication and relevance of the arguments used to justify arts expenditures. States with the largest increases report success in using the following rationales:

  • Economic development: The arts are linked to jobs; economic activity and impact; urban, rural and downtown revitalization; amenity value of property; and are a factor in corporate location decisions.
  • Education: Arts literacy engages all of a student’s senses and a variety of intelligences. The arts teach creativity, are vital to a competitive workforce, are linked to improved learning in other subjects, motivate students to stay in school, and stimulate brain development.
  • Youth at risk: The arts are part of the solution to problems that endanger America’s youth—problems of teenage pregnancy, violence, drug abuse, and dropping out of school.
  • Cultural tourism: States and localities profit when the travel and tourism industry partners with the arts, humanities, historic preservation, and environmental communities to make travelers aware of rich cultural experiences.
  • Community building: Arts activities are central to creating a sense of place and enhancing cross-cultural understanding, not only through regular festivals and the establishment of cultural districts, but through special projects in times of human and natural disaster.
  • Quality of life: The arts are increasingly understood as an element of a vibrant, livable and sustainable community.

The benefits that are perceived to be most important may vary from state to state, year to year, and administration to administration.

Factor #3: The Governor’s Agenda

It is also useful to consider as a key environmental factor the one or two issues with which the governor most closely identifies. In recent years, individual governors have declared economic development, education and literacy as their top priorities. Special funds are often available to those state agencies—the arts agency included—whose programs are perceived to advance the governor’s priority. Similarly, state arts agencies identified with the governor’s priority have been spared budget cutbacks applied to other agencies.

Factor #4: Available Budget Resources

The ups and downs of a state’s overall revenues and expenditures are a major influence on agency allocations, especially in the discretionary portions of a state’s budget where the arts agency typically resides. This has been seen historically. The decline of state arts agency budgets between 1989 and 1992 coincided with a national recession that led to shortfalls in state revenues. At the same time, state expenditures for corrections and health care increased at rates that exceeded expectations. The resulting squeeze on discretionary spending limited the funds available for arts support. Correspondingly, the growth in aggregate state arts agency budgets from 1993 through 2000 has coincided with a strong national economy characterized by remarkable prosperity in mainland regional economies, high rates of employment and strong state fund balances.

The overall availability of budget resources does not ensure state arts agency budget growth or decline—effective advocacy that links the arts to public benefits is always crucial. But the fluctuation of state revenues and expenditures is a factor state arts agency leaders need to consider. Planning multiyear activities with the expectation of regular budget increments may or may not be realistic. For this reason, many state arts agencies have focused planning on core programs and services, consolidating their program areas into ones that can be reduced or expanded as resources allow. This simplifies communications, priority-setting and the agency’s ability to respond to changes in resources. In any case, an accurate assessment of the likely budget environment increases the practical value of a plan.

Factor #5: The Maturity of Statewide Networks

The ability of a state arts agency to provide public benefits is influenced by the cohesion of formal networks, alliances of individual cultural leaders, arts organizations, local arts agencies, arts education advocates and other cultural interest groups. Non-arts groups of individuals such as legislators, educators, business leaders, the foundation community, the tourism industry and other social and political groups are important as well. The degree to which such networks exist, are effective, or can be fostered significantly affects what a state arts agency can realistically plan and accomplish.

The quality of the working relationship among a state arts agency, state department of education and a statewide arts education service and advocacy group, for instance, often determines the potential impact the state arts agency can have on arts education. Similarly, a good working relationship with an effective statewide assembly of local arts agencies may be a key factor in state arts agency planning for community arts programming.

Factor #6: Legislative Leadership and Support

Legislative support is, of course, essential if an agency is to receive the resources necessary to implement a plan. State arts agency leaders have learned from NASAA focus groups (which included state legislators) that legislative support for the arts is strongest when:

  • legislators have had direct experience with the arts or state arts agency programs
  • legislative spokespersons for the arts represent all political parties or perceive the arts as a bipartisan issue
  • legislative leadership is broad-based rather than concentrated in one or two spokespeople
  • the arts agenda does not become an issue of personal friction between a legislative leader and the governor

There are many ways to involve legislators in planning. In a growing number of states, legislators are appointed to serve as state arts agency council members and participate in planning in that fashion. Other states use legislative caucuses for the arts, initiate special visioning sessions with legislators or issue special invitations to engage legislators in key state arts agency activities.

Factor #7: Technological Advances

Just a few years ago, there was no Internet, no World Wide Web. Now, most functions of state arts agencies have been transformed by advances in digital technology and the proliferation of computers as business tools and artistic media. The level of technological savvy of the arts community may vary greatly from artist to artist, arts organization to arts organization, and state to state. Considering technology as a factor in planning, or conducting an audit of technological resources currently used by a state’s arts community can inform many program and service decisions.

Factor #8: Cultural Diversity

Every state has a unique mix of racial, ethnic and regional populations, with each population having its own heritage, traditions, values and perspectives. The planning process offers an opportunity for state arts agency leaders to take stock of those diverse populations—how their numbers and political power are changing, what access they have to arts dollars, how they participate in the arts, how they institutionalize the arts, how they support the arts, and what they expect from a state arts agency. It is important to assess how well your past planning efforts have succeeded in engaging diverse constituents. You may need to gather new information, initiate dialogue in a different way or use new networks (such as schools, churches or civic organizations) to inform and subsequently promote your plan.

Materials and staff assistance from NASAA can help state arts agencies assess the extent and quality of their attention to their state’s cultural diversity. NASAA’s self-assessment tools suggest ways to identify indicators of commitment, indicators of accomplishment, and standards that characterize their state’s response to its cultural diversity. This analysis then informs the development of effective agency programs and services. It may be incorporated into a comprehensive planning process or undertaken separately.

Factor #9: The Arts and How People Participate in Them

Supporting and increasing citizen participation in the arts has long been a driving public purpose behind the existence of state arts agencies, and most SAA mission statements reference “broadening access to the arts for everyone.” However, the ways people experience the arts are affected by the whole environment—how people earn a living, new forms of electronic media, alternative leisure time pursuits, family and household configurations, age of the population, job market and disposable income, and a host of other factors. The occasion of planning provides an opportunity to identify the greatest barriers to joyful and meaningful participation in the arts as well as those factors that stimulate and facilitate participation. Current arts participation research identifies an increasing demand for arts experiences. But that research also outlines some significant barriers to participation, and suggests that younger generations and culturally diverse groups may be participating less in some art forms than others.

Factor #10: Arts Literacy

Most state arts agencies work to ensure that every student receives a comprehensive and sequential arts education as part of their K-12 school experience. On top of the intrinsic value of an education in the arts, increasing arts literacy is an investment in the future. Arts education can help ensure the creativity and resourcefulness of our workforce, and research has shown that it encourages the next generation to be avid and informed consumers, as well as creators, of the arts. The grade schoolers of today are your constituents, business colleagues, legislators and council members of tomorrow.

The planning process offers an opportunity to affect local as well as state-level education in the arts. Education decision making at the local level in the United States is a complex system involving specialist and generalist teachers, school and community administrators, curriculum supervisors, school boards, principals, superintendents, parents and business leaders. Representatives of these interest groups can be targeted for participation in the planning process, arts education issues may be integrated in the planning process, or statewide hearings may be designed to address arts education issues. It is useful to bear in mind that a productive working relationship among the state arts agency, state department of education, and a statewide arts education advocacy and service group is a key factor in the advancement of arts education at both the state and local levels, so any way the planning process can foster or strengthen that relationship should be considered.

What We Can Learn from Non-Arts Sectors About Planning

Earlier in our toolkit we discussed various types of plans—operational plans, long-range plans and strategic plans—as well as the forces that make planning different in corporate, nonprofit and state art agency settings. There are strong similarities of process and technique that cut across the various sectors—assigning leadership roles, creation of a mission and vision, identification of core values, scanning the environment and collecting relevant data, and creation of goals and action plans. Where significant differences lie is generally in the composition of these various elements (accountability to citizens or to a board of directors), guiding principles (service versus profit) and the sophistication of and depth to which certain techniques are employed during planning (town meetings, data collection, etc.).

Even so, there are lessons that state arts agencies can glean from how other sectors approach and implement planning, and we thought it would be helpful to take a look at just a few.

Royal Dutch/Shell

In 1983, consultant Peter Schwartz suggested that his client, Royal Dutch/Shell, undertake a study of the Soviet Union. At the time, although the oil the Soviet Union produced was reasonably priced, the country was a relatively minor player in the oil and gas business internationally, partly due to an unofficial agreement among European countries to limit Soviet penetration of their markets. Shell was ready to embark on the most expensive drilling operations ever in the North Sea and it was counting on continued stability in both the political climate in the USSR and in a path of inevitably rising oil prices.

It was at Shell that Schwartz refined his “scenario-building” techniques described in detail in his book, The Art of the Long View. Shell allowed Schwartz to begin a planning a process that included thinking the unthinkable. That process entailed engaging in extensive research, questioning long-held assumptions and ingrained company mindsets, being committed to the long term and then imagining possible scenarios.

All this led Schwartz to present Shell with two scenarios for the future of the Soviet Union, which he dubbed “incrementalism” and “the greening of Russia.” Within each of these scenarios, Schwartz and his planning team highlighted the key potential indicators of political and economic change that would signal whether the scenario was being activated.

Here is a brief summary of Schwartz’s eight steps to developing scenarios:

  1. Identify the focal issue or decision.
  2. List the key factors in the local environment influencing success or failure of that decision.
  3. List the driving forces in the macro-environment that influence these key factors.
  4. Rank key factors and driving forces by degree of importance and uncertainty.
  5. Select scenario logics that will determine which scenarios to follow.
  6. Flesh out the scenarios in detail.
  7. Revisit the focal issue or decision and rehearse each scenario.
  8. Select leading indicators and signposts to monitor the scenarios.

It was Schwartz’s scenario building that prepared Shell far in advance of its competitors (and even of the CIA!) for the fall of the Soviet Union and for the collapse of oil prices—two events that did not even seem remote possibilities at the beginning of their planning process. Shell continues to work to anticipate changes in its environment. For instance, analysts now project that hydrogen will become a feasible consumer energy source within the next two decades—far sooner than most experts previously anticipated. Shell is now investing in subsidiaries that specialize in hydrogen-based energy solutions in an effort to stay “ahead of the curve” and retain its market advantage.

New Mexico State University Library and New York State Comprehensive Research Library

Few institutions have endured as much pressure to change in the past few years as the nation’s libraries. Dramatic advances in technology, the shift to digital information sources and the chameleon-like nature of urban demographics have had a significant effect on the very nature of how libraries define themselves and how they do business. This may be one reason why libraries are heavily involved in strategic planning efforts. Two of these efforts can provide state arts agencies with interesting lessons and models.

New Mexico State University (NMSU) Library has a long history of accomplishments based on planning. The library’s current strategic plan can be found on their website. Forty representatives from throughout the library and forty members of the NMSU community, university faculty and students contributed in a participatory process that generated, discussed, analyzed, and finally endorsed the plan’s ideas.

The library’s process began with the dean’s articulation of a vision for the future. Then, eight members of the library and three members from the university community designed the planning process. They created five committees that ultimately produced the plan:

  • environmental scanning committee
  • values scan committee
  • strategic business modeling committee
  • mission formulation committee
  • performance audit and gap analysis (PAGA) committee

Having defined a potential future, PAGA conducted a gap analysis—the gap between the library’s current performance versus its desired future—to determine if the gap could be closed. The five-year plan document was ultimately based on the performance audit and gap analysis.

The NMSU team then created a contingency planning committee, which considered the entire plan. They created, within the library’s organizational structure, a standing committee to accomplish the strategic goals identified in the plan. The contingency planning committee believed an empowered group would be the most appropriate method to ensure that a “living plan” was implemented and unforeseen contingencies were addressed on a timely basis.

The library’s website presents a distinctive version of their strategic plan, complete with appendices representing the entire and unedited work of all of the people who participated, directly and indirectly, in the process. The library hopes this presentation will convey several key principles:

  • The vision, mission and goals are to provide direction and guidance for the library to fulfill its mission, and are not an unequivocal road map.
  • Strategic planning is a process, not a document.
  • The process must be both participatory and living if it is to have any real meaning for the library and the users served.
  • Together, these principles allow the library to focus on its users and its mission while responding to a continually evolving environment.

The New York State Comprehensive Research Library also had an unconventional strategic plan.

In 1996, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation granted New York State’s eleven Comprehensive Research Libraries $50,000 to plan for the creation of a New York State Digital Library—a “virtual library” of electronic resources either published or created from materials in the state’s libraries, archives and other cultural institutions. The grant allowed NYCRL to create a strategic plan for converting New York-related collections to digital form and make them available over the Internet.

During the two-year grant period, representatives from each of the eleven member libraries, the group’s Steering Committee and representatives from several libraries met to discuss the development and management of a website that documents New York’s heritage. An intern joined the project to develop the website. At the end of the two-year project, a digital library symposium was held on technical issues as well as findings by member institutions.

The effectiveness of any policy initiative will increase as it serves higher purposes, is owned by larger numbers of people and is kept alive over a longer period of time.

A major focus of NYCRL’s efforts was to work with groups throughout New York State interested in collaborating to develop a digital library. Legislation was proposed and presented at meetings of the New York Library Association Legislation Committee. Members traveled to Albany to consult with legislators and representatives of other educational/cultural groups, and represented NYCRL at statewide meetings to plan the implementation of the Electronic Doorway Library program and the Library Services and Technology Act. At both the New York Library Association and Academic Libraries 2000 Conference, NYCRL members made formal presentations about “the making of New York” and discussed digital library developments and the challenges they present for libraries.

Also, NYCRL members focused on joint licensing agreements and other ways to collaborate on discounted purchasing arrangements statewide. The work that took place with regard to vendor contracts represented a major step forward in cooperative programs of benefit to all libraries. This outreach effort resulted in NYCRL being represented in numerous forums statewide, ensuring for the first time that the interests of research libraries are heard when considering statewide actions.

The plan’s presentation on NYCRL’s website extends its strategic intent to connect libraries with one another and with the public, demystify the tenets and process of planning, and keep the document alive. In addition to the body of the document itself, the website provides access to:

  • press releases used during the process
  • selection and collection criteria
  • meeting notes and minutes from all planning sessions
  • a legislative proposal and other funding possibilities
  • background papers and technical information
  • hyperlinks to websites of all participating libraries (by alpha sort and by subject headings)
  • a “comments and suggestions” form to elicit on-going feedback (with a guaranteed staff response within three business days)

The World Bank and Colombia’s Electricity Sector

During the 1980s the Colombian electricity sector was undergoing seismic shifts in its environment. There was a worldwide recession, Colombia was overproducing electricity in the face of lowering demand, the peso had been devalued, the industry’s external debt was enormous and it was suffering losses of 25 percent due to illegal tapping. In January 1985, Colombia’s minister of finance asked the World Bank for help. Instead of providing electricity policy makers with technical consultations and expert solutions, the World Bank decided to finance the facilitation of a planning conference to help the sector develop new concepts of shared empowerment and a greater appreciation of its total power field.

To do this, World Bank brought in a team from the Wharton Graduate School of Business (University of Pennsylvania) who designed a “search conference” with the purpose of bringing a large and diverse group of stakeholders together in order to increase personal and organizational power at all levels through sharing information and increasing learning processes.

The planning conference included a diverse mix of sixty participants, including national policy makers, staff of energy subsectors, budgeting officials, consumers, major utilities representatives, academics and specialists. The Wharton group ascribed to a philosophy that will be of interest to state arts agencies: “Potential power increases as our purposes expand from individual, short-term problem solving to serve medium-term community values, and still more when we serve the long-term ideals of a whole system.” In other words, the effectiveness of any policy initiative will increase as it:

  1. serves higher purposes
  2. is owned by larger numbers of people
  3. is kept alive over a longer period of time

The three-day “exploratory planning workshop” held in Santa Marta, Colombia, was composed of the following series of exercises self-managed by small groups using facilitators and reporters:

  • Image of current realities, created individually as drawings, and then coalesced into a small group composite
  • Creation of the ideal design of the electricity sector, from the perspective of concerned Colombian citizens and then presented in a creative synthesis (image, metaphor, dance, etc.)
  • Creation of strategies for approaching the ideal, presented by groups as a map showing the causal relationships between major events
  • Examination of stakeholder reactions, presented as a role play of a debate between major stakeholders
  • Creation of a plan of action
  • Reflections on work achieved

The planning conference resulted in two major realizations by its participants: First, most of its problems could not be solved internally, and needed to be resolved through a broader involvement and participation with external stakeholders. Second, a new “sector” needed to be created to mediate between the interests of coal, electricity and oil, and those of the nation. One other positive by-product of the conference was that one of the participating Technical Board energy consultants became the next minister of mines and used the results of planning to make drastic changes in his new agency.

This model of planning has gone on to be used internationally by countries interested in building holistic, developmental partnerships across cultures based on their different ways of learning. State arts agencies might keep in mind that this planning model requires managing three sets of relationships found in all environments: the relationship to ourselves (control), to others (influence) and to the whole (appreciation). A set of very simple principles can help ensure more effective design of a planning conference:

  • Eliminate power differences among participants.
  • Ensure that information flows with equal probability among the participants so that everyone has equal access to an appreciation of the whole.
  • Allow participants their own interpretation of results, accepting that the whole is too huge and complex to be analyzed or categorized by any one person.
  • Artistic processes (drawing, drama, dance, creative writing, music) have the potential to inject creativity and authenticity to visioning and to the entire planning process.

For a complete description of this process, see “Planning for the Electricity Sector in Colombia,” by William E. Smith, Ph.D., in Marvin R. Weisbord’s book Discovering Common Ground.

Connecting Planning to Agency Resources

Most people think of planning as the time to decide how to use existing dollars wisely. While this is certainly true, planning also presents the opportunity to try and leverage new resources for your agency. Some of the case studies described earlier have positioned state arts agencies to secure budget increases. Following are some strategies to consider as you embark on your own process.

1. Express what you are accomplishing with the dollars you already have.

Demonstrating accountability and “making the case” typically mean justifying allocations in terms of outputs (products and services offered) and outcomes (the public benefits they provide). Use performance measurement data as well as anecdotal evidence to express the progress you’ve made in accomplishing your plan’s goals. Be sure to use a variety of measures, and organize your information so that the three-way relationship between your resources, your plan and your accomplishments is explicit. Become familiar with NASAA’s Performance Measurement Toolkit. This publication can assist you when you need to translate agency goals and activities into measurable outputs and outcomes. Legislators, like everyone, love a winner, so demonstrating success with the dollars you already have can play a significant role in securing new dollars in the future.

Public officials may be more likely to support a new plan if they understand its conception and feel it helps to accomplish their own aims.

2. Clearly identify what you could accomplish with additional resources.

A lesson in getting new resources can be learned from the Minnesota State Arts Board, which added $12 million to its legislative appropriation between 1997 and 1999 (an increase that was almost twice its previous appropriation of around $7 million per year). As part of its strategy for securing this increase, the arts board articulated how the new funds would meet the needs of the state—needs exposed through their plan’s constituent input process as well as dialogue with key partners across the state. The arts board then proposed ways to use the additional dollars within their existing goal areas, highlighting the increases in services to be provided, new communities to be reached and new levels of grant funding that could be achieved. The Minnesota example suggests that it can be useful to substantiate a new budget request with factual information that outlines what you are able to achieve with the funds you have now versus what you might be able to achieve with additional money. Below are some hypothetical examples:

  • Population served: “At our current budget level, grant dollars in our Arts Education Program reach 20 percent of the state’s elementary school students. An additional $500,000 would allow us to reach our goal of 50 percent.”
  • Regions reached: “Our Community Arts Program now has the funds to reach 35 of our state’s 50 counties. With an additional $500,000, we could reach every county.”
  • Portion of support: “Our general operating support awards only comprise two percent of the budgets of our state’s premier symphonies, museums and performing arts centers. An additional $500,000 would allow us to increase the state portion to four percent of those organizations’ budgets, and enable us to begin supporting our state’s major festivals, as well.”
  • Supply and demand: “Last year our panels identified 350 grant applications as qualified for state support, but we were only able to award 30 percent of the dollars they requested. A budget increase of $500,000 will help us reach our goal of 60 percent.”
  • Leverage: “The $100,000 awarded in our Cultural Innovations Program last year was matched by an additional $300,000 in earned and contributed income. By increasing the state commitment to $200,000, the three-to-one match would leverage an additional $600,000 in private dollars.”

As you can see, making the case in accountable terms is a habit of mind. But remember that the numbers themselves will not make a complete argument; your projections must be combined with meaningful information about the purposes and public benefits of each program.

3. Position your plan as a solution to a problem.

Planning can be used as a vehicle to unite the diverse constituencies for the arts behind a common agenda. Specific attention may be given to a plan that distributes state arts agency funds to resolve urban-rural differences, to provide access to the state’s diverse racial and ethnic populations, or to offer more satisfactory resources to small and mid-sized groups as well as large arts organizations. Tackling these big issues may seem daunting, and not all states may think it wise to subject their planning process to the possibility of serious dissent. But keep in mind that a fully participatory planning process will probably require you to encounter these issues anyway, and that not resolving them may cost you time, money and support in the long run. By bringing people together to find a winning solution to a perennial problem, your agency builds consensus and increases its pool of informed advocates who have a stake in seeing your agency succeed.

4. Find creative ways to engage your legislature.

Public officials may be more likely to support a new plan if they understand its conception and feel that it helps to accomplish their own aims. So, early in your planning-to-plan process, identify a meaningful role for key legislators. Also consider ways to broaden the participation of legislators in agency activities throughout the life of the plan. Don’t overlook the importance of personal involvement. For instance, a notable initiative in Maryland invited state legislators into arts classrooms during the first month of the school year. More than 80 legislators accepted the invitation, with very positive results. If you have an organized legislative caucus focused on the arts, think about ways to make its members more visible to arts constituents and your council. In a growing number of states, legislators are appointed to serve on the state arts council itself.

5. Consider requesting special funds to conduct the planning process.

Most state arts agencies fold planning into their regular administrative budget, which raises the challenge of finding enough money to continue normal operations at the same time you are planning. To avoid this tension, it may be possible to make the case for special planning funds. Admittedly, it’s a hard case to make. To some people who have participated in an ineffective planning process, the word “planning” may have negative connotations or imply the opposite of “doing.” Effective planning, however, is a process of engagement during which individuals get to use fully the powers that make them human beings—visioning, making value judgments as they set priorities, thinking strategically, problem solving, pooling resources, choosing roles, reviewing the merit of their work, and adjusting to a changing environment. It is important, therefore, to communicate precisely about what goes on in a strategic planning process and to not let the image of a report on a shelf limit one’s planning resources. Some helpful tactics might include:

  • Be specific about how money for planning would be used. Explain the number of constituents who can be involved, the number and kinds of activities around the state, the kind of information that can be gathered, and the quality of analysis that is required.
  • Communicate the reasons for planning. Cite the advantages of a strategic approach and express the benefits of planning in terms of the amount of dollars that will be more effectively spent over time.
  • Secure funding for selected portions of your process. Might a local foundation or university be interested in collaborating on a planning-related research project? Could you secure legislative funding for a series of public forums that involve council members, elected officials or other leaders?

6. Cultivate partners that can bring new resources to the table.

At its best, planning should strengthen your relationships with existing partners and can introduce new partners to your agency. As you identify ways for partners to become involved in helping you to achieve your goals, consider what human and financial resources—for new or existing programs—partners might offer. Money is not the primary ingredient of a successful relationship, and not all partners will bring dollars to the table. However, state arts agencies should consider resources an important topic in any collaboration dialogue. Consider a wide spectrum of possible government, nonprofit, corporate and philanthropic sources as you work to secure ideas, staff support and financial commitments. Look for areas where your goals and objectives could complement the work of a potential partner. Finally, be sure to return the favor—participate in your partners’ planning processes and be willing to make reciprocal financial commitments when their goals help you advance your own.

Pitfalls of Planning

An effective planning process can bring with it many positive elements including increased clarity of vision, unity on areas of strategic focus, creation of new alliances and a renewed sense of purpose. But it would be naive to imagine that there is no price to be paid along the way. Planning is both bitter and sweet. Here are some problems that often accompany planning efforts, and that you should be prepared to encounter.

Conflict: An open and honest planning process is bound to uncover differences—often significant—between participants, over issues large and small. Skeletons will jump out of their closets and deep-seated resentments or suppressed complaints will rise to the surface. If your organization has a culture that has avoided conflict in the past, and has no methods in place for arbitrating very strong differences between parties, then planning may heighten and exacerbate tensions. Planning presents a perfect opportunity to learn how to fold conflict resolution skills into your modus operandi so you can approach difficult issues in a healthy manner. Some approaches to conflict resolution include focusing on shared goals and connecting change to the availability of greater resources.

Burnout: Planning will impose an extra layer of work on your already overburdened staff. Key participants report spending as much as 50 percent of their time on planning-related activities during peak periods—while still having to conduct the regular business of the agency. Do not underestimate the time planning will take, and be realistic about its effect on the operation of your agency and staff. The planning-to-plan period is an excellent time to consider how to mitigate stress.

No one should be surprised if the process feels less like a comfortable trip on a commuter train than like a ride on a roller coaster. But remember, even roller coaster cars arrive at their destination, as long as they stay on track!

Turnover (internal and legislative): Internally, planning should clarify some key issues for your organization—its core values and its future direction. Often planning will produce a set of future goals and objectives that are quite a departure from past directions. When this happens, some staff, administration, council members and clients may discover that they are no longer in harmony with the organization. Or the organization may discover that the set of skills, attitudes and programs it now has will not meet the demands of its new direction. Be prepared to handle both voluntary and imposed turnover as a result of planning. Externally, SAAs live on shifting legislative ground, where term limits and legislative/governor turnover guarantee a fluid political environment. This provides yet another reason for agencies to stay flexible during planning, make strong connections on the grassroots level, and remain closely connected to the legislative process.

Rumor mills: In many organizations planning takes place on a number of levels, in many settings, using various teams and task forces. This poses a special problem for coordinating the dissemination of information throughout the planning process—especially when a significant change in direction, structure or programming is being discussed. Be prepared to squelch rumor mills by having mechanisms in place to communicate the relevant results of planning to key stakeholders at all appropriate moments throughout the process via tools such as internal memos, distribution of meeting minutes, staff meetings and individual debriefings.

Frustration: Planning does not move forward in a perfectly linear and predictable manner. Because you are in the position of discovery, and because your organization is dynamic throughout the process, you can expect to move two steps forward and one step back—or one step forward and two steps back! Remaining adaptable throughout the process will help reduce your level of frustration. As Michael Allison and Jude Kay point out in their book Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations, “No one should be surprised if the process feels less like a comfortable trip on a commuter train than like a ride on a roller coaster. But remember, even roller coaster cars arrive at their destination, as long as they stay on track!”

Paralysis: Because planning will address the major long-term directions of your agency and encourage serious reexamination of current programs, be prepared for a stalling effect. People may want to defer action until all the pieces of the puzzle have been reassembled. It is important to keep in mind that planning is a messy process, and that your agency must keep functioning throughout the planning period. Avoid paralysis by beginning to implement some actions during planning, before everything has been resolved and committed to paper.

Raised expectations: As you begin to talk to stakeholders about your agency’s dreams and aspirations, and scan the environment by surveying the community’s needs and wants, you will naturally create a raised level of expectations. Even though the agency has not yet promised to provide anything new to constituents, visions of sugarplums may dance in their heads. Be prepared to deal with the desire for your agency to be all things to all people. When you have your sense of focus and priorities well defined, broadcast them widely and clearly.

Lack of resources: Effective planning takes time, money and a concerted effort on the part of at least a small group of people. Take a good look at your agency’s resources and construct a planning process that is doable given your own particular situation. As our case studies have shown, there is a wide range of planning models—from eight months to three years in duration, and from $5,000 to $320,000 in cost—that can produce excellent results. One of the ironies of planning is that it can cause as many problems as it solves. Once your plan is in place, it is highly likely to require additional resources. This is when a strong sense of focus is necessary, to help you concentrate limited time, energy and finances on the most important activities, while you use the document and your new relationships to secure additional resources to fulfill the rest of your plan.

Planning Assistance from NASAA

NASAA provides a wide spectrum of planning resources that help improve the planning knowledge and skills of state arts agencies. We work to highlight best practices, organize what we know about successful planning, supplement it with fresh and innovative ideas, and make that synthesis systematically available to the field via practical, how-to resources. Through our professional association of the nation’s state and jurisdictional arts agencies, members can take advantage of the following resources:

Technical assistance

  • telephone and e-mail consultation
  • on-site facilitation of planning-to-plan meetings and visioning sessions
  • overviews of national arts trends for occasions such as statewide conferences, planning meetings and council meetings
  • consultation on special planning subjects such as planning for technology or performance measurement
  • professional development and training opportunities at NASAA’s annual conference


  • clearinghouse of examples of state arts agency plans
  • referrals to state arts agency colleagues facing similar challenges
  • referrals to consultants with state-level planning experience

Online resources

During 2000, NASAA has developed a virtual planning center that provides updates to this toolkit, examples of state arts agency strategic plans, links to online planning resources and other helpful materials.

Information services

  • current and historical analysis of state arts agency budget data
  • current and historical analysis of state arts agency grant-making data
  • current information on programs and staffing
  • state-to-state comparisons and cluster analyses
  • assistance with survey designs
  • consultation for packaging and presenting data (tabulations, reports, maps, etc.) for planning documents, publications and budget requests

Topical publications

  • Report to the Task Force on Cultural Pluralism: Summarizes policy and program strategies for cultural diversity and outlines indicators of commitment to be used in agency self-assessment.
  • A State Arts Agency Performance Measurement Toolkit: A guide to systematically tracking information about activities and using it to assess and demonstrate your agency’s impact and efficiency.
  • Measuring Your Arts Economy: A practical guide to conducting economic impact studies.
  • A State Arts Agency Public Funding Sourcebook: Contains over 25 years of historical data on SAA and NEA budgets, as well as constant-dollar calculations, population figures and regional data tables.
  • The NASAA Advocate: A periodical focused on strategies to build public support for the arts at the state level.
  • Research Briefs: A periodical that synthesizes current research about state arts agencies and their environments.

For information, publications or technical assistance, contact the NASAA office:

Phone: 202.347.6352
TDD: 202.347.5948
Kelly Barsdate
Jonathan Katz


The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) is the nonprofit, tax-exempt membership organization of the state arts agencies of the United States and six U.S. jurisdictions including American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. NASAA’s mission is to advance and promote a meaningful role for the arts in the lives of individuals, families and communities throughout the United States. NASAA empowers state arts agencies through strategic assistance that fosters leadership, enhances planning and decision making, and increases resources. NASAA’s program areas include policy development, research, leadership development, communications and advocacy.

Additional Resources

Books and Articles

Allison, Michael, and Jude Kaye. Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations: A Practical Guide and Workbook. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1997.

Ames, Steven C., ed., A Guide to Community Visioning. Chicago: APA Planners Press, 1994.

Barry, B.W. Strategic Planning Workbook for Nonprofit Organizations. St. Paul, MN: Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, 1998.

Bean, William C. Strategic Planning That Makes Things Happen. Amherst, MA: HRD Press, 1993.

Bryson, John M. Strategic Planning for Public and Nonprofit Organizations. San Francisco and Oxford: Jossey-Bass, 1988.

Cartwright, T. J. “Chaos and Planning Theory.” Journal of the American Planning Association, vol. 57(1), 1991: 44-56.

Covey, Stephen. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990.

Creighton, James. Involving Citizens in Community Decision Making: A Guidebook. Washington, D.C. Program for Community Problem Solving, 1992.

Doyle, Michael, and David Strauss. How to Make Meetings Work. New York: Jove Books, 1982.

Dreeszen, Craig. Community Cultural Planning. Washington, DC: Americans for the Arts, 1998.

Drucker, Peter. The Drucker Foundation Self-Assessment Tool: Process Guide. Drucker Foundation and Jossey-Bass, Inc., 1998.

Epsy, Siri N. Handbook of Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations. New York: Praeger, 1986.

Fauludi, Andreas, editor. A Reader in Planning Theory. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1979.

Goodstein, Leonard; Timonty Nolan; and William J. Pfeiffer. Applied Strategic Planning: How to Develop a Plan That Really Works. McGraw-Hill, 1992.

Himmel, Ethel and William James Wilson. Planning for Results: A Public Library Transformation Process. Chicago: American Library Association, 1998.

Kaner, Sam. Facilitative Guide to Participatory Decisionmaking. New Society Publisher, 1996.

Katz, Jonathan. “A Description of a Possible National Agenda for Literary Activities in the United States Based on an Analysis of Systems Governing Literary Participation.” Ph.D. diss., Kent State University, 1997, 378-472.

Kibbe, Barbara, and Fred Setterberg, for the David and Lucille Packard Foundation. Succeeding with Consultants: Self-Assessment for the Changing Nonprofit. New York: The Foundation Center, 1992.

McClure, Charles. Planning and Role Setting for Public Libraries. Chicago: American Library Association, 1987.

Mintzberg, Harvey. “Crafting Strategy.” The Harvard Business Review, July/August 1987, 66-75.

Mintzberg, Henry. The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning. New York: The Free Press, 1994.

Napier, Rod; Patrick Sanaghan; and Cling Sidle. High Impact Tools and Activities for Strategic Planning: Creative Techniques for Facilitating Your Organization’s Planning Process. McGraw-Hill, 1998.

National Endowment for the Arts. Surveying Your Arts Audience. Washington, DC: National Endowment for the Arts, 1985.

Schwartz, Peter. The Art of the Long View. New York: Doubleday, 1996.

Senge, Peter. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. New York: Doubleday, 1990.

Stevens, Louise. The Community Cultural Planning Work Kit. Amherst, MA: Arts Extension Service, 1987.

Stevens, Louise. Planning to Make the Arts Basic. Massachusetts: ArtsMarket Consulting, Inc., 1991.

Weisbord, Marvin R., and 35 international coathors. Discovering Common Ground: How Future Search Conferences Bring People Together to Achieve Breakthrough Innovation, Empowerment, Shared Vision, and Collaborative Action. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 1992.


We gratefully acknowledge the following individuals for their thoughtful and gracious contributions to this planning project:


State Arts Agency Representatives

  • Betsy Bradley, executive director, Mississippi Arts Commission
  • Jennifer Severin, executive director, Nebraska Arts Council
  • Abel Lopez, chair emeritus, District of Colombia Commission on the Arts and Humanities
  • Ken May, deputy director, South Carolina Arts Commission

Planning Consultants

NEA Staff

Edward Dickey, Director—State and Regional, National Endowment for the Arts
Andi Mathis, Program Specialist—State and Regional, National Endowment for the Arts

Case Study Contacts

Arizona Commission on the Arts
Shelley Cohn, executive director
Mollie Lakin-Hayes, programs administrator

Colorado Council on the Arts
Fran Holden, executive director

Maine Arts Commission
Alden Wilson, executive director
Peter Simmons, former deputy director

Mississippi Arts Commission
Betsy Bradley, executive director

New Jersey State Council on the Arts
Barbara Russo, executive director
David Miller, deputy director

Project Support

This publication is made possible through funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (Cooperative Agreement DCA #98-17) as well as through the support of NASAA’s member state arts agencies.

Production Credits

Copy editing by Jill Hauser, program manager, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies
Artwork and design by Benson Design

About the Authors

Principal author Morrie Warshawski is a consultant who has specialized in working with the nonprofit arts sector over the past 25 years. His planning experience includes nine years as a consultant and regional coordinator for the National Endowment for the Arts’ Advancement Program, where he helped many organizations conduct 15-month planning processes that culminated in long-range strategic plan documents. He recently created Lessons Learned: A Planning Toolsite for the NEA—a collection of essays and case studies on planning. His other clients include foundations, state arts agencies, nonprofit arts organizations and individual artists throughout the country. Warshawski is the author of a book on fundraising, Shaking the Money Tree (Wiese Books); numerous articles on culture and the arts in publications throughout the U.S.; and handmade artists books in private collections and museums internationally. More information on Warshawski, his services and clients can be found on his Web site.

Contributing author Kelly J. Barsdate is the information services director at NASAA, where she has worked since 1991. Barsdate directs NASAA’s evaluation, survey research and database development activities, provides information management and planning consultation to arts councils, and manages NASAA’s interagency research and technology partnerships. Prior to her tenure at NASAA, Barsdate analyzed multicultural education paradigms for Educational Research Services, Inc., and studied clarinet performance and music education at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Barsdate edits NASAA’s Research Briefs series, and has authored publications including Measuring Your Arts Economy, A State Arts Agency Performance Measurement Toolkit, The Education Commitment: State Arts Agencies’ Arts Education Activities, and Educating a Culturally Diverse Student Population.

Contributing author Jonathan Katz, Ph.D., is chief executive officer of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. Before heading NASAA, Katz was awarded tenure as a full professor of public policy and administration at the University of Illinois at Springfield, where he directed the masters degree program in arts administration from 1978 to 1985. He also directed the Children’s Museum in Denver, Colorado, and was executive director of the Kansas Arts Commission, one of the first state arts agencies to focus its resources on the development of a local arts agency network. Katz has consulted extensively in cultural policy planning and organizational development with state, local, federal and private cultural groups. His clients have included the Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. While at NASAA, Katz has authored Building Coalitions for a Creative America and Report to the Task Force on Cultural Pluralism, and edited Presenting, Touring and the State Arts Agencies and Serving the Arts in Rural Areas: Successful Programs and Potential New Strategies.

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